Two Questions for Nephi – Part One – 1 Nephi 22:1-3

You can read 1 Nephi 22:1-3 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi read the words of Isaiah to his brethren, they had questions for him. What does it mean? And are these things to be understood spiritually or physically?
  • Nephi explains that the things that he read were given to the prophet through the Spirit. The Spirit teaches all things to us – both spiritual and things that will happen according to the flesh.
  • Nephi also explains that the things he read from Isaiah have both spiritual and temporal application.

Two Questions for Nephi

Let’s jog our memories for a second. In 1 Nephi 19, Nephi tells us that in order to more fully convince his people of the Savior, he read the words of Isaiah to them. What follows in 1 Nephi 20 and 1 Nephi 21 are two chapters that quote Isaiah (Isaiah 48-49).

Now, in 1 Nephi 22, he has finished reading the words of Isaiah to his brothers, and they have questions.

  • What do these things mean?
  • Are they to be understood spiritually and not physically?

Good questions actually. In fact, I think that when we read the words of Isaiah, we often have the same exact questions…what does this mean? Is this symbolic and spiritual or literal? I don’t think that these are necessarily questions of doubt or ridicule. I feel like whichever of Nephi’s brethren asked this question were probably asking in earnest.

At least, I know that when I have wondered these same things about the prophecies of Isaiah, I have wondered them in earnest. So, for this blog post and the next, we will be investigating and answering these questions.

What do these things mean?

First, Nephi’s brothers ask What meaneth these things which ye have read? Or, in other words – what do these things mean?! Pretty good question. Nephi just read to them Isaiah 48-49. What do those things mean?

Nephi spends most of the rest of this chapter going over what Isaiah’s teachings mean.

One – Sooner or Later, the house of Israel will be scattered among all nations

First of all, Isaiah’s prophecies given in Isaiah 48-49 deal largely with the fact that the House of Israel will be scattered. We learn in Isaiah 48 (1 Nephi 20) that the children of Israel would not “hear” their God. They didn’t swear by the name of the Lord. They didn’t swear in truth or righteousness. They profaned His holy Name.

They called themselves of the house of Israel, sure. They identified as God’s chosen and covenant people, but they paid Him lip service only.

Though The Lord had shown them all things they needed to know from the beginning, they wouldn’t hear. So, the Lord chose them for the furnace of affliction, and allowed them to be scattered.

Two – Because Israel hardened their hearts against their God, not only will they be scattered, but they will be hated of all men.

This is a pretty harsh consequence. And I can’t say that I completely understand it – at least from my point of view and with my sensibilities.

All I know is that being “hated of all men,” was a consequence of their actions. I don’t think it is a judgment of God nor do I think that He justifies this action in any way. It is just something that happened.

And what does it mean, to be hated of all men – well, I suppose that this is the primary vehicle (but not the only one!) of scattering. The people of the house of Israel were overtaken and defeated – by the Babylonians, by the Assyrians, etc. They lost their sovereignty. Most of this happened during ancient times, so enemies of the state were treated in more barbaric ways than we are accustomed to now.

I think it is important to mention, the Lord does not condone hatred in any way. All of these people – the children of Israel and those who scattered her – the men who hate her – are distanced from God. None of them are “with Him.” None of them are aligned with His teachings, His covenants, His commandments, His statutes, His promises. They are all on their own.

They are all left to their own devices – which are the devices of the natural man. So – the treatment of the children of Israel are up to the whim and emotions of immortal, imperfect, irrational beings. I don’t have time to go into this now, but people are not steady. We are often driven by fear, by greed, by pride. Often, these natural drives – fear, greed, and pride – have grave consequences. These grave consequences are multiplied when you have leaders (like Nebudchadnezzar) who are driven by fear, greed, and pride AND they have almost unlimited power and resources.

So – the children of Israel have left the comfort and protection of the Lord. They have been left to their own devices. They aren’t in the safety of the Old Ship Zion. Instead, they are floating along on their own – exposed to riptides, currents, flesh-eating bacteria, great white sharks. The Lord wants to protect them, but He isn’t forcing them to stay on His ship.

I think it is important to understand this. The Lord loves us. The Lord loves His covenant children. I don’t think that He wanted to see them oppressed and run down. I think it hurts Him to see us being hurt. Additionally, the simple statement of consequence (they will be hated and smitten of men) should not be misconstrued as a justification for anti-semitism or hatred of any people. Remember what the Lord stated:

“But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?

5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.” – 2 Nephi 29:4-5

So – Israel will be scattered and even hated by the gentiles. This is just what will happen. However, God doesn’t hate His children. And He doesn’t condone such hate either.

One last thing – not all of scattered Israel were scattered by the Gentiles. For example, Nephi and His family were “scattered” by God. They were guided by the Lord to a promised land. Because of their faithfulness, they were protected from the coming Babylonians. They didn’t have to suffer being hated of men at that point. Instead, the Lord scattered them, and their nation flourished for a thousand years.

After a thousand years, though, they became wicked. They rejected the Lord and His prophets. They no longer had His companionship and protection. They, members of the House of Israel (through the tribes of Manasseh), scourged and hated one another. Eventually, they were also smitten by the Gentiles – the Europeans who came to the Americas. It happened. The Lord doesn’t condone violence or hatred. But if we choose to leave Him and His gospel, we will be left to our own carnal, sensual, and devilish devices. If we want to shun violence and hatred, if we want peace, if we want joy, if we want charity and love, if we want protection – then we will stay on the Lord’s side and cultivate our Spirits accordingly.

The house of Israel rejected the Lord, and the consequence was scattering and a general, great apostasy where His priesthood, His gospel, His covenant could no longer be found anywhere on earth with any group of people.

Three – The Lord will Raise a Mighty Group among the Gentiles

After some time, the Lord will proceed to do a “marvelous work” among the Gentiles. It will eventually be of worth to the House of Israel. But first, the Lord will perform this work among the Gentiles.

What is this work? The restoration of His gospel.

Though I don’t know the exact lineage of the people in the restoration period of our church, it is easy to see that they would be considered “Gentiles.” The church of Jesus Christ – the covenants and the priesthood – were restored by the prophet Joseph Smith. He was a young farm boy born in Vermont. His ancestry seems to have been primarily English. A person of Anglo-Saxon heritage would most likely have been considered a Gentile.

The early members of the church were people like Joseph Smith. They lived in the Northeastern states of the U.S. They had similar racial backgrounds. Many of these early converts to the church served missions to the European nations that they were also from (England, Germany, Scandinavian countries). Again – probably considered Gentile nations.

The Lord often taught the concept that the first should be last and the last should be first. This is in reference to the restoration of His gospel. First the gospel went to the house of Israel and then the Gentiles. And in the latter days the gospel went to the Gentiles and then Israel.

The mighty group of Gentiles that was raised up by God was the group of people who helped to restore Christ’s gospel and covenants on this earth in the latter days.

Four – After the Gospel has been Restored with the Gentiles, They Will Nourish Scattered Israel

After the Lord scattered Israel and then proceeded to do his “marvelous work” among the Gentiles – of restoring His covenants and gospel – then it would be taken back to scattered Israel. The Gentiles who made covenants with God would be His instruments in nursing the remnants of Israel.

The Lord would not (and did not!) forget the covenants that He made with the Israel, anciently.

I think that this is a beautiful concept. Yes, Israel turned away from God. And yes, like the Father of the prodigal son, he let Israel go. Heavenly Father let Israel take her inheritance and spend it in riotous living.

Yet, Heavenly Father never stopped rooting for Israel. He even brought the gospel back to earth and prompted the Gentiles to bring it back to Israel.

And when Israel does turn back to the Lord, just as the prodigal son returned to His father, Heavenly Father accepts her with open arms.

Oh – and one more thing. We are actively living this portion now. President Nelson has enlisted the youth in the Lord’s Battalion for gathering Israel. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

Five – The Scattering and Gathering of Israel Blesses All

The scattering and gathering of Israel takes place over thousands of years. It includes countless people. It impacts all.

The Lord promised Abraham that in his seed would all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. The Lord accomplished this through allowing Israel to be scattered and then by using His power to gather her. We read:

“And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.” – 1 Nephi 22:10

The Lord “made bare his arm” through the restoration of the Gospel.

Six – Satan will Be Destroyed

We haven’t experienced this portion of the prophecies of Isaiah yet. But, once the Lord’s word has really rolled out, there will be a time when those who fought against Israel – those who brutally and ruthlessly scattered and hated Israel – will receive justice.

Those who persecuted the people of the Lord will “fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord.” Wickedness will not persist.

When this time comes, Satan will no longer have power. This powerlessness comes as a consequence of the righteousness of the people. They aren’t interested in Satan’s temptations.

Six – The Lord will Preserve the Righteous

The Lord will prevail. We don’t know exactly how this will happen, but we know it will. And we know that the Lord will protect His people. If we are on His side, we don’t need to fear. We read:

“Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.” – 1 Nephi 22:17

This actually sounds kind of scary, but we can take comfort in his words – we need not fear!

Seven – The Holy One of Israel will Reign

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Again, we haven’t made it to this point in the prophecy yet. But there will be a time, after all of the above things have occurred, when the the people live in righteousness. Then, the Lord will reign. They will experience peace and joy. They will not have the confusion, sadness, hatred, oppression that exists when Satan has power.

There is so much hope and joy in God’s plan. And this is what Isaiah taught.

Waiting for God – 1 Nephi 21:18-26

You can read 1 Nephi 21:18-26 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
  • The Lord is speaking through Isaiah. He comforts Israel – though Israel will be scattered, He will gather Israel at a later time.
  • The Lord will lift up His hand to the Gentiles, and they will gather Israel.
  • The Lord will save the children of Israel, will fight her fights, and will destroy those that oppress Her.
  • All flesh will know that the Lord, the Mighty One of Jacob, is our Savior and Redeemer.

Waiting for God

As usual, there is a lot that could be studied in this block of scriptures. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a scripture scholar. I have no real academic background when it comes to the scriptures. The only real scholarly skill I have is being able to use Google.

So – instead of trying to figure out exactly what everything in today’s scripture selection means, I am going to focus on something that keeps standing out to me instead.

Quick note: there is nothing wrong with finding out the more historical or “scholarly” aspects of the scriptures. There are times when the Spirit is kind of prompting me to learn more about the history or geography of Israel to help me better understand something that I need to know. Today isn’t one of those days for me. Today, I keep thinking about this phrase:

…and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” – 1 Nephi 21:23

Not Ashamed

First things first, I want to see what the dictionary definition for ashamed is.

“1a : feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace
// She felt ashamed for hitting her brother.
// You should be ashamed of yourself.
// Losing is nothing to be ashamed of.
// He was deeply ashamed of his behavior.
b : feeling inferior or unworthy
2 : reluctant or unwilling to do something because of shame or embarrassment
// I was ashamed to be seen with him.
// I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t know the answer.” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Ashamed

Notice – shame, guilt, disgrace. This definition includes “guilt,” but when it comes to the scriptures and a religious understanding of shame and guilt, I think that they are two vastly different things.

Guilt – is the feeling we have as a consequence of sin. It is actually a gift. It is a signal from the spirit that something is not right. Guilt that comes from God will be accompanied with love and hope – because we will know that despite our tendency to stray, we have a path back to righteousness through the Savior.

Shame – on the other hand is a feeling we have about ourselves, and I believe that it is from Satan. For example, when in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt guilt when they spoke to God and admitted that they had transgressed and had partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt shame when Satan pointed out their nakedness, then made them feel stupid about it.

Okay…keep following my train of thought for a moment. I’m sorry that this isn’t more polished. Thanks for studying with me.

I think that shame has more to do with pride than anything else. Think of those who partook of the fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream. After partaking, they looked around and saw that the people in the great and spacious building were laughing them to scorn. This group then, felt shame. They didn’t do anything wrong, yet they felt shame! Their shame was so profound, they left the tree of life – whose fruit was the most desirable above all things and the most joyful to the soul! Now, that’s pretty intense shame.

What was the driver of this shame—their pride. They cared about the opinions of those people in the great and spacious building more than they cared about their own joy! In fact, this pride was enough to keep them from feeling the joy of the fruit.

Shame plays a similar role in our lives. If we are feeling bad about something, it might be helpful to really contemplate – am I feeling guilt, shame, or maybe a little bit of both? Guilt will also come with hope and lead us to repentance and positive changes. Shame on the other hand leaves us feeling despondent and hopeless – that even Christ’s eternal and infinite sacrifice isn’t eternal and infinite enough for us.

So – back to the scripture in 1 Nephi 21. The Lord says that we will not be ashamed that wait for Him. Remember, the context of this scripture is that Israel has suffered and has been scattered. They feel forgotten and forsaken. They might even feel ashamed for “waiting” for Him because He hasn’t answered their prayers yet.

We will get more to the concept of waiting in a moment, but maybe not being ashamed is a choice that we sometimes need to make during our trial, while we are waiting for the Lord. We need to be confident as we follow the whisperings of the Spirit, even when we might look stupid to everyone else. We can take courage: we won’t always look this way. The Lord will come through.

Waiting

I have looked up the definition for wait in the dictionary, but I don’t want to include it all here because it is long. So, here’s a basic idea:

  • to stay in place in expectation of
  • to delay
  • to remain stationary in readiness or expectation
  • to pause for another
  • to look forward expectantly
  • to hold back expectantly
  • to be ready and available
  • to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized

Have you ever felt this way? I can say that I have. And you know what I’m realizing? I’m realizing that it’s okay. Notice that last point: to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized. This is waiting. While we are in the throes of waiting, it is hard to remember that waiting is only a temporary condition.

Not only that, but sometimes I think that I misunderstand what it is to faithfully endure a trial. Sometimes I think that I am supposed to have a plastic smile painted on my face at all times. That’s the face of faith, right?

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that if I haven’t yet received an answer to my prayers, it is because there is something I’ve done wrong. Now, don’t misunderstand. I know that we have to wait and work after we pray. But I just forget how long the path can be. I forget that sometimes we have to wait a very long time. I don’t think that I’m the only one who forgets this!

When we talk about Nephi and his journey to the promised land, do we really recognize the waiting that he had to do? Do we really stop to think of what eight years feels like? The account Nephi gives of his family’s journey to the promised land takes 18 chapters. You can read that in a few weeks. We aren’t reading the day-in-day-out record of Nephi’s experience. We don’t read about the boredom, the monotony of the desert, the walking, the waiting. We don’t see how Nephi’s knowledge came to him by degrees. We are getting the highlight reel.

Watching all nine innings of a baseball game is a lot different than the 3 minutes of highlights they show on the news later. There’s a lot more waiting at that game!

It’s a temptation for me to forget that real life isn’t a highlight reel; That waiting takes time; That the Lord lets us wait—and that in the meantime we feel temporarily neglected as our prayers are temporarily unrealized.

But the Lord has said:

“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;

2 Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.” –Doctrine and Covenants 98:1-2

The Lord has heard our prayers. He bids us to wait. And if we do, we will find that eventually our prayers our answered. Though we may look foolish for a time, we will not ultimately be ashamed when we wait on the Lord. This is because He will come through. And our prayers will be answered.

What to Do While We Wait

Waiting is hard. It really is! It is for me, anyway. What do I do when I wait? What should I do when I wait? Well, the answer is in the scripture above:

  • Be Comforted – Being comforted is more than the Lord comforting us. We also have the choice to accept that comfort in our trials or to ignore it. So, don’t wallow in fear or sadness. We need to remember the peace and joy we have felt when the Lord has comforted us. A good way to do this is to write a journal – observing times we have felt comforted, and then referring back to this often.
  • Rejoice Evermore – Rejoice! We can rejoice knowing that we believe in an omnipotent, eternal God. We can rejoice knowing that His promises are sure. If He has promised us something, we can rejoice in it just as Lehi rejoiced in obtaining a promised land years before arriving.
    Oh and one more thing. How can we rejoice more? Smile! Take a moment right now to think of a happy moment. Now, as you’re thinking, make a slight smile. Keep smiling for a few seconds or so. How do you feel??? Smiling really helps us to feel better.And if you really want to feel great and rejoice, then sing!
  • In Everything Give Thanks – Finally, we can better wait for the Lord if we are grateful. We can take a moment to notice the tender mercies of God. Now, it is important to realize that gratitude and desiring God’s deliverance aren’t binary expressions. You can want both at the same time. You can want to make it to the top of the mountain while being grateful for the difficult walk up it.

So – be grateful. This doesn’t mean fake happiness and pretending that we are absolutely thrilled about some difficult trial. But there is always something to be grateful for.

Persian Speedwell
Sometimes we might have to look long and hard, but there are little blessings even in the rockiest path. We can always find something to be grateful for.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures. I’m in my own “waiting period” right now. I feel like I’m a plane circling an airport to land. I feel like I’ve been in this holding pattern for at least 2 years now. It is exhausting. There are times when I wonder, am I an idiot? I am tempted to be ashamed. I’m tempted to stop waiting for God.

But the scriptures are a beautiful reminder to me that there are times when it take years for God’s work to unfold. I can remain faithful, knowing that at a future point, I won’t be ashamed! He hears my prayers and He will grant His blessings in His own due time. Thanks to the scriptures, I’m reminded that I can keep waiting.

 

Praising God at All Times – 1 Nephi 21:13-17

You can read 1 Nephi 21:13-17 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
  • Israel is to sing, be joyful, and praise God. He will comfort his people, and have mercy on his afflicted.
  • Zion, confused, will feel forsaken and forgotten by God.
  • The Lord hasn’t forgotten Zion. Though a mother may forget her child, the Lord will never forget His people.

Praising God at All Times

There is a really good possibility that we will be studying this passage for more than one day. We read:

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

17 Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.” – 1 Nephi 21:13-17

This is a beautiful passage of scripture with a witness of the Savior’s love for us. But right now, I am feeling particularly drawn to verse 13. In verse 13 the heavens, earth, and mountains are commanded to be sing, be joyful, and sing. We read that “the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

Immediately after this verse, we read of a question or concern of “the Lord’s people” – Zion.

“But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.” – 1 Nephi 21:14

Okay – so I hope that you’re on track with me here. What is standing out to me is that the mountains, the earth, the heavens, the Lord’s people are being commanded to sing, be joyful, rejoice, break forth into singing preemptively. They are to praise God. Yes they have felt comfort, but they haven’t yet felt His mercy and deliverance from their affliction.

In fact, their response to this command is The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—…”

Why is this their concern? Why aren’t they breaking forth into singing? Because they have not yet experienced any of the blessings of the gathering that He has been promising to them throughout this chapter. The gathering of Israel – it’s hope and comfort is simply a light at the end of a very long tunnel – I don’t even think that this light is visible to them yet, instead, they are told to rejoice even while in the thick of the darkness of their trial.

I wish I had some poignant remark right now. I don’t. But I know that this is a concept that I need to keep studying. So…let’s just try to work something out. All aboard my train of thought! Choo! Choo!

Praising God while in Turmoil

There are so many examples of this very concept in the scriptures. There are examples of people praising God even before they have been delivered. Let’s think of a few…

One – Lehi
In 1 Nephi 5, we read Lehi’s words to Sariah:

“And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.

5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 5:4-5

Lehi spoke these words to Sariah while Nephi and his brothers were in Jerusalem obtaining the plates of brass. This happened at the beginning of Lehi’s journey. He won’t obtain the land that God has promised him for YEARS. Yet notice the words he uses:

  • I have obtained a land of promise
  • I do rejoice

He isn’t saying, “One day we will obtain the land of promise.” He isn’t saying that he’ll rejoice once he sets up his home in his promised land. He rejoices as if he has obtained the promised land while still in the wilderness of his affliction.

Two – The Jaredites
Another example from the scriptures that is coming to mind is that of the Jaredites – who were also led to the promised land by the Lord. We read of their experience in Ether:

“7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.

11 And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.” – Ether 6:7-11

So, this is an account of the Jaredites journey to the promised land – across the ocean. Notice, they were in these barges for nearly a year. Wow. Long time. These were not ships. There were no sails. Instead, these barges were moved by wind and currents, and the people in these barges would spend time “Buried in the deep.”

I pray that no one was claustrophobic! Could you imagine the sea legs after a 344 day long journey?

Can you imagine these barges? There were people, animals inside of them. Remember, these aren’t just stories. It’s easy to read the account of the Jaredites or Lehi and his family, and just think good for them making it to the promised land. We can even criticize them – why did it take them so long? Why would they ever doubt God. I think that it is just easy to overlook the reality of their situations.

The reality, as I can best guess, of the Jaredites was that they were in a enclosed vessel for a year(!) with animals, people, etc. They had to eat. They had to live. They had to go potty. I don’t think that they had candles or glade plug-ins. They were tossed about. They probably got sick at some point over the course of the year. Maybe they even had children. I’m not sure. A lot can happen then. And I can’t really think of any possible events that I’d want to deal with while in a barge! This took faith.

It took faith for the Jaredites not to complain. And not only did they refrain from complaint, but they sang praises to the Lord, they thanked him and praised him all day and all night long – before receiving the reward!

Three – Nephi
In the scriptures, there are many more examples of people praising God before their deliverance, but I will list only one more right now.

While on the ship headed toward the promised land, Nephi was tied up by his brothers. Their wickedness jeopardized the entire ship. A great storm rose up on the sea, and they dealt with a bitter tempest for four days. Lehi, Sariah, and others tried to get Laman and Lemuel to loose Nephi, but nothing would convince them other than the power of God – and the threat of destruction.

Imagine Nephi, tied up on the ship – the ship he built after 8 years in the wilderness. And now, he is tied up and they are in a terrible storm. Imagine! They almost died at sea. This was a serious storm! All of this, after so much trial, toil, and tribulation! It would be hard to be Nephi, tied up, life endangered. I imagine that my thoughts would have been “What?! After all of this, and I’m going to die at sea?!?!?!?!”

Instead of worrying, we read what Nephi did:

“Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” – 1 Nephi 18:16

Instead of fretting, complaining, worrying, Nephi praised God.

Why???

It’s easy to look at Lehi, the Jaredites, and Nephi all starry-eyed, thinking Wow! They are amazing! But that’s not the point of the scriptures. We aren’t supposed to mythicize them and low-key idolize them. Instead, they are supposed to inspire us into action. We have these examples of people who are real, mortal, fallen people – empowered by our Savior. Because Lehi, the Jaredites, and Nephi did it, we can, too!

So why? Why would Lehi rejoice 8 years before reaching the promised land? Why would the Jaredites sing while buried in the depths of the sea? Why would Nephi praise God while tied up on a ship at sea?

Well, first of all, I think that it is a matter of faith. They are rejoicing in the fruit that they will have while their plant is still a seedling. They are grateful. They have hope! They know that if they continue to nurture this seedling, then they will be fed.

Another thing that keeps coming to mind is maybe this is the secret to sustaining such faith! How else would you make it through eight years in the wilderness? submerged at sea? tied up by your brothers? How would you? I mean, the stress is absolutely crushing.

Each of these things needed courage and tenacity. Each of these people needed to be absolutely indomitable. And how do we muster up the hope to be indomitable? Set our spiritual eyes on the prize, and praise God!

Praising God is what got Lehi through the hard times while in the desert. In fact, there was one time when he murmured – when Nephi broke his bow. Did his murmuring help the situation?! NO!!!! It cost valuable time and energy. Nephi had to lift their spirits before coming up with a solution.

Praising God is what helped the Jaredites make it to their promised land. If they had let their spirits down, what do you suppose would have happened? I don’t think that they would have endured 344 days in a barge.

Praising God is what helped Nephi to endure captivity at sea on a ship that he made. If Nephi had chosen to murmur against God, then when released, I don’t know that he would have been able to pray that the tempest would subside.

Praising God isn’t some luxury that we participate in after everything has worked out. Obviously, we will have gratitude when we see our prayers answered. Lehi, Nephi and his people praised God when they landed on the shores of the promised land. The Jaredites fell down and cried out in gratitude when, on that 345th day they were able to get out of the barge and see that they had been delivered. Yes – we will praise God when we get there. But Praising God is so much more than gratitude after the fact.

Praising God, remaining grateful, is a part of our covenant to always remember Him. Praising God is the way that we access His Spirit, the Comforter. Praising God is how we make it. Praising God is “steadfastness in Christ,” and it helps us to keep pressing forward. Praising God is the secret to hope, faith, and eventually success.

***

It can be so tempting to be frustrated by our challenges while we navigate the “wilderness of our affliction.” And I don’t think that God expects us to pretend like these things are a challenge. Praising God and praying that we can be delivered from trials are not mutually exclusive. But when we are in the throes of our trials, we can praise God.

I once decided to take a walk up a mountain. The road was steep and difficult. There were times when my quads, my lungs, my feet wanted me to stop! It was a 4,000 foot climb and a 14 mile walk!

While walking on this path, I could have focused on the pain in my feet. I could have focused on the steepness of the road. I could have focused on the difficulty of each breath as the altitude rose and oxygen became more sparse.

And I can tell you that if I had focused on these things, then I wouldn’t have made it!

Yes it was hard, and I didn’t pretend it was easy to do. But I was blessed by the Lord every step of the way. There were views like this one that dotted my path up the mountain:

heber valley

When I needed to, I could take a minute to pause, look out, and rejoice.

There were also little colorful spots of joy all along the way:
Wild RosesBlue Camasscarlet Giliabeardtongue

Even when my legs wanted to stop walking up the mountain, even when I started to slump and look down, I would see these colorful reminders of God and His tender mercies. Yes, I could have gotten frustrated and tired. Or, I could praise Him!

I’m so grateful for the scriptures, and the reminder to me that I can sing and be joyful. We are on a journey that is hard. We must, at times, struggle through the wilderness of our affliction, but we don’t need to fret or worry! We can rejoice! The Lord is real. He is our Savior. He has already overcome, and He is guiding us. Our victory is assured, we simply need to put one foot in front of the other.

And if we do decide to navigate this life with praising and joy, we will not only make it to our destination, but we will also feel joy along the way.

The Lord will Bless Israel – 1 Nephi 21:7-12

You can read 1 Nephi 21:7-12 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah. See Isaiah 49.
  • The Lord speaks to scattered Israel – who has been hated and abhorred by the world.
  • The Lord has heard the prayers and cries of scattered Israel (on the isles of the sea, for example). He will help them, preserve them, and give them a covenant.
  • This covenant will help not only Israel, but it will also help anyone who wishes to make a covenant with God. It will liberate people.
  • The Lord then promises that they will not hunger, thirst, be beaten down by the sun. The Lord has mercy on them and will guide them in fertile, peaceful places.

The Lord Will Bless Israel

There is so much to learn in these chapters and verses. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a scripture scholar. I don’t have an academic background in ancient history, Greek, or Hebrew. I don’t know the customs of the ancient Jews in Jerusalem. Of course, from time to time, I might seek some insights – and for this reason I’m thankful for the inter-webs. But I don’t really know much about the scholarly aspects of Isaiah.

There is nothing wrong with scholarly pursuits. I know that having an academic background can really help in understanding Isaiah. But, I say this because I want to recognize that there is so much to learn from these chapters. And we can learn spiritually. We don’t have to be afraid of them.

Perhaps one day I will become more scholarly, and continue to gain more insights. But for now, I am noticing something else, so today I will focus on that.

In this block of scriptures, the Lord is speaking to Israel. He describes his audience:

“… to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhorreth, to servant of rulers…” – 1 Nephi 21:7

Admittedly, the prophecies of Isaiah can often be interpreted different ways and applied to different people. For example, the “servant” in the beginning of this chapter (verses 1-6) can be Isaiah, Israel, The Messiah, or even Joseph Smith. I won’t get into that right now, but the point is, this scripture can have more than one application. It is the same with the scripture block we are studying now.

So, you might read this and see another interpretation, and I’m sure that you are also correct! For now, I will focus on scattered Israel as the recipient of the message in verses 7-12.

Okay. Now that I have a basic understanding of a few things, I feel like I can get my bearings. And I feel like I can actually learn something. So, on to the really good stuff.

In this block of verses, the Lord is speaking to scattered Israel, and He is comforting them. We learn a few things about the Lord, and I would like to study those things today.

One – He Hears Our Prayers

The Lord in verse 8 states:

“Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea,…” – 1 Nephi 21:8

The Lord has heard the isles of the sea. I suppose that this means that He has heard their prayers, their cryings, their sorrows, their joys. He is aware of them.

And notice that interesting phrase in an acceptable time.

I can’t help but think about my own life. I have pleaded with the Lord. I have prayed to Him. I have begged Him. I have rejoiced in Him. I have exercised faith. And sometimes it can feel like my prayers, my concerns, my sorrows, and even my rejoicings ascend into the Heavens and simply get stuck there. I have felt, as Joseph Smith so poignantly wondered O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1).

The fact is, God hears our prayers. And He will in answer them in an acceptable time. I suppose that this means in God’s time.

Even as I have gone through my own trials, and at times I have wondered if God hears my prayers, I have received comfort. The answers will come at God’s time. And it will be acceptable – both to God and to me! It will be favorable. It will be the best for me.

Two – The Lord helps

The verse continues:

“… and in a day of salvation have I helped thee;…” – 1 Nephi 21:7

The Lord will help us. He will save us. Again, it will happen at the Lord’s time, but in the Lord we have help. This is such a hopeful concept.

Three – The Lord Will Preserve Us through Prophets and Covenants

Again, back to the verse:

“and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;” – 1 Nephi 21:7

As far as personal application goes, I really love the idea that the Lord will preserve us, or save us. He did this for scattered Israel because of the covenants he made with their fathers (like Lehi). So, some of the preservation that we experience in our lives may just be because of the heartfelt prayers of the family that came before us.

In this verse, the Lord is telling scattered Israel that He will provide a servant for the people. This servant of God will help to restore Israel to the gospel and her divine heritage. This servant of God will help to restore Israel and free her from darkness and obscurity.

This has happened. The Lord has given us a prophet – Joseph Smith. By way of commandment from God, Joseph Smith helped to usher the restoration of His gospel to the earth in modern times. We have lived to see this part of God’s promise and prophecy fulfilled. It is pretty cool.

One of the amazing things about having hindsight in the scriptures is that it can help us to have the spiritual sight we need to maintain faith in our troubling times. The Lord did keep his covenants. He did provide a servant that would help to establish the gospel on earth and bring it to scattered tribes of Israel on the isles of the sea.

Because we know that the Lord did this, we can have faith that the Lord will do this in our lives. He will preserve us. He will bless us with hope and salvation. He will help us and bless us.

Four – The Lord will Sustain us

We read:

“They shall not hunger nor thirst,…” – 1 Nephi 21:10

It is important to remember that the Lord not only sustains us spiritually, but also physically. He is concerned with the welfare our whole soul—both body and spirit.

Five – The Lord will Protect Us

Again, back to the scriptures:

“…neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” – 1 Nephi 21:10

I love this. I have lived in Arizona a few times in my life. Because of Arizona, I know heat. I know what it is to be smitten by heat and the sun.

scorcher in desert
Doesn’t this Look Hot?!?!

And I know that I shouldn’t even complain because when I lived in AZ, I had air conditioning in my house and a swimming pool in my backyard. I had an escape. But still, it is just soooo hot in Arizona.

And to read that the Lord will keep the sun and heat from smiting us is such a relief.

I want to think about this for a second more. We often think of the Lord as being a protection from the storm. And yet, here He is described as protecting us from heat and sun. Again – about my time in AZ…The thing about Arizona is that the heat and the sun are relentless. The average YEARLY amount of rainfall in Phoenix is somewhere between 6-8 inches. That’s YEARLY.

The average amount of sunny days in Arizona are 329! Out of 365! (And I’ll tell you something – for those other 36 days – Arizona may get rain, but those aren’t usually “rainy days.” In PA, for example, a “rainy day” is a day of grey and drizzle. In AZ, a “rainy day” is a day where maybe it rained for a few minutes, but was otherwise sunny. … The heat. The sun. It’s incessant.

Arizona, Phoenix ,and the Sonoran Desert especially, is a dry, hot desert. The sun, the heat – they are relentless. Day after day after day, it is just hot and sunny. The landscape is bleached. You can’t escape it. Day after day after day. I think the hardest thing about summer in Phoenix is just trying to endure the punishing sun.

The desert heat is an interesting threat. The heat and sun isn’t as obviously dangerous as a tornado or hailstorm. The heat and sun doesn’t seem as threatening as an earthquake or tsunami. It’s boring. The heat, the sun of Phoenix is a really boring threat of nature. It doesn’t get your heart racing.

Well, except that it actually does! Though boring, the heat and sun in the desert is an extremely effective threat to life, and yes, it will get your heart racing if you are standing in the sun on a hot day! The scorching heat may not be exciting, but it is pretty darn effective.

Okay.

If I apply this to the scriptures here, then I realize that our lives can be this way, too. Sometimes life just feels like the relentless heat of the desert. We don’t always have high drama in our lives. Maybe we have a storm or two over the years. But another major trial we experience is the monotonous exhaustion of daily life.

Sometimes Satan’s temptations aren’t like a hailstorm or tsunami. Sometimes they are just daily, long-term, seemingly benign exposure to a heat source. Sometimes life isn’t all high-stress and crazy, but it is still hard because it is relentless. The Lord knows this and understands this, and He offers us respite.

One of the funny things about living in AZ is when you are in a parking lot. In the summer, the closest parking spaces aren’t the coveted ones. No! Everyone wants to park in the shade! Even if that shady spot is in a far back corner of the lot, that is where the cars will congregate. There is nothing like shade in the hot desert!

This is what the Lord offers us. He is the shade in the desert. He is a glass of water on a cool day. He protects us and provides for us. Though we must wander in the desert – in the wilderness of our affliction, and He will not necessarily keep us from having these “wilderness” experiences, He will give us rest.

Six – The Lord will Guide Us, and We Will Succeed

Finally, we read:

“…for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
12 And then, O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.” – 1 Nephi 21:10-12

The Lord will have mercy on us as we travel through the “deserts” of our lives. If we will turn to Him, then He will guide us through those deserts by the springs of water. He will direct our paths. And if we endure with tenacity, we will succeed.

In my own life, I have experienced “desert” times. (Besides literally living in the desert). I have had trials that feel like the “wilderness of my affliction” – where the trail – day after day – feels long, and intense. Though those times have been difficult, as I think about it, I can say that yes – the Lord has had mercy on me. He has guided me by springs of water and has helped me find my way out of these deserts and to my own “promised lands.”

I remember being a single mother. It was hard! It was relentless. But the Lord was merciful. He led me by springs of water. Those “springs,” were my job, Friday nights when I had pizza and watched movies with my girls, hanging out with my brothers, going on dates and having fun with friends, getting hot chocolate from Wegman’s every Monday morning. No – none of these things were deliverance. But they were tender mercies that empowered me on my journey.

***

Time to wrap this up. I know that the Lord loves us. I know that as we study the scriptures, we can learn more about Him. I know that He wants us to succeed in life, but He can’t take our experiences away from us – because then He would be robbing us of the very success He wants for us. I know that He wants us to have joy. And I know that as I come to know Him and trust Him, then I will experience the joy that He has.

The Lord’s Foreordained Servant – 1 Nephi 21:1-6

You can read 1 Nephi 21:1-5 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah 49
  • Isaiah is asking Israel to hearken.
  • The Lord called Isaiah from the womb.
  • The Lord helped to prepare Isaiah for the mission he would fulfill.
  • Israel is God’s servant, and He will be glorified.
  • Isaiah then communicates some kind of exchange with God – it seems both literal and symbolic. He said he had labored in vain and spent his strength for naught.
  • The Lord formed Isaiah in the womb, that he should be a servant of God to help restore Jacob.
  • The Lord would help his servant to perform his mission.

The Lord’s Servant Part One: Foreordained

So, I guess we’ll start this off by saying that sometimes the words of Isaiah can be a little…cryptic. And let me preface this by saying, I’m no gospel scholar. I love the scriptures, yes, but I’m not a historian. I haven’t read all of the books about the scriptures. There is so much that I just do not know.

Though I’m no scripture scholar, and you might not be either, we can still study the scriptures and find something that is applicable to our lives. After all, application is exactly what Nephi has suggested we do. (See 1 Nephi 19:23.) So here we go.

The main thing that I find interesting in this passage of scripture is that the servant of God was “called from the womb.” I find it fascinating that the Lord had a foreknowledge of this individual and shaped him to become what the Lord needed. This is what we will study today. Next time we will study a few possibilities of “who” the servant is.

Called from the Womb

We read:

“…he Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.”- 1 Nephi 21:1-2

The servant of God had been called from the womb. In other words, this servant had been called even before being born.

What was the calling? To be a servant of God.

We read:

“And now, saith the Lord—that formed me from the womb that I should be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him—though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.

6 And he said: It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.” – 1 Nephi 21:5-6

Again, it is reiterated that this servant was called from the womb, or even before his birth.

We can learn something from this – the Lord knew us before we came to the earth. The Lord has given each of us our own divine missions to fulfill. I think that we are all “called” to do some kind of work while on the earth. Of course, it is important to remember:

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” – Matthew 22:14

We may be called before we are born. But we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we are chosen! We can learn from the scriptures what will keep us from being chosen to do what we were sent here to do. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants:

” Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 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—

36 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.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37

So – this servant was called before his creation. It would be up to him to be “chosen” and to fulfill this work. It is just the same with us. There are things that we have been called to do in our lives. These roles all look different. Remember, we ought not aspire to the honors of men. So, we shouldn’t discount our calling if it seems really simple. My small and simple means are great things brought to pass.

For example, I feel that one of my raisons d’être is to be a mother. It is really simple. There are a lot of mothers on this earth. It’s a common calling.
But that doesn’t mean that the calling is not special! My children need me. And as I fulfill my role as mother to the best of my capabilities and according to the promptings of the spirit, then I will feel joy as I fulfill the measure of my creation.

Now, I wonder if I should expand on this, so as not to be misinterpreted. Fulfilling my roles as a mother doesn’t mean that I’ll be driving them around all day in a car, it doesn’t mean that I’m the home room mom. It doesn’t mean that I’m a stay at home mom. It doesn’t mean that I’m a working Mom. It doesn’t mean that I’m a homeschooling mom. It doesn’t mean that I’m a mom that bakes. It doesn’t mean that I’m a mom that hates domesticity. It doesn’t mean that I’m a cool mom, a frumpy mom, an active mom, a home-body mom.

Fulfilling my role as a mother means that I’m going to the Lord, mindful of my children and doing the needful thing at that precise moment. It means that I’m creating a nourishing environment for the growth of any soul that enters into my sphere. This can be accomplished in many different ways in our lives. We ought not to judge one another or ourselves. We just need to go to the Lord for insight on how the role will be fulfilled. And we can be confident in our ability as we seek the Lord’s guidance and follow it.

great horned owl and owlet
A Wise Mama

One final thing. I chose the role of mother because I’m in the thick of this role myself. However, I truly believe that we each have many different “callings” in our lives. We might be called to write blogs, help friends and neighbors, go on missions, make quilts. There are a number of things we may be called to do, and anything that the Lord is quietly prompting us to do is what we should do. It is wise for us to remember the words of Mordecai to Esther:

“…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

It was Esther’s role to simply be a beautiful woman who could convince a king to save a nation. She was born to do what she did, and she rose to the occasion. Likewise, we have been born to do things. If we will rise up to our own occasion, we will experience joy as we fulfill the measures of our creation.

Prepared

Not only was this servant called from the womb, but the Lord prepared Him.

We read:

And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;” – 1 Nephi 21:2

The Lord doesn’t just call us from the womb and then expect us to somehow magically discover this calling and prepare for it. He isn’t Lucy! (from Charlie Brown.) I really believe this. Yes we are called even before we breathe, but He will prepare us for our life’s work so we can have the agency to choose to fulfill it.

He prepared his servant – with a mouth like a sharp sword. He “hid” his servant, so that the servant would be able to do his work at the right time. The Lord, additionally, endows His servant with His strength.

This can also be applied to each one of us. The Lord hasn’t set us on this earth with missions to fulfill and without the tools to do it. Now, the Lord won’t do the work for us. And often, we have to sharpen our own tools and practice using them in order for us to really be prepared to do our work. But the Lord will guide us. He will teach us how to do what we were sent here to do, and, again, we can be confident.

Back to my own example of being a mother. Years ago, I was struggling with a slight bout of depression and confusion. I felt that I should go and seek some help from a therapist. I had several sessions with her. It was a wonderful experience that continues to bless me to this day.

Over the course of these sessions, I came to realize that the “funk” I was in was largely attributed to me feeling the emptiness that comes when we aren’t fulfilling our missions on this earth.

Now, that isn’t to say that I was shirking my duty. By this time, I had four children. They were kind of the center of my life. I was trying so hard to be a good mom. Yet, everything I was doing felt like it was sapping me of my strength, individuality, and even – at times – joy. I loved my children. I love my children! But I was getting exhausted.

I felt like I needed to be some kind of “model” mom. That I needed to do it all. That I needed to have a perfect face, hair, nails, etc. I felt that I needed to have a home where everything was perfectly decorated according to the popular styles. I felt like I should have my kids in various activities, and that I should be the coach, room mom, PTA president, etc.

Of course, I wasn’t doing all those things. I was trying. I was trying to make my kids the best lunches everyday. I was trying to be everywhere. I was trying to be the perfect mom. (And isn’t it crazy, I’m not even talking about the other roles that I have, too! hahaha!)

I was talking about some of this overwhelm I had, my therapist asked me, “Why do you think you need to do all of that?” I told her it was because I wanted to be a good mom.
“Is that what a good mom is? A mom who is a room-mom at the school?”
“I guess,” I answered.
“Says who? Don’t you think that there are good moms that aren’t room moms? Aren’t there other children who have good moms in those classes, too? Why do you think that you need to be this way?”
A ha! I was starting to get what she was getting at. She didn’t answer these questions for me. And she didn’t ask me to answer them for myself.

A few weeks later, I started to realize, I didn’t need to be the trophy mom – an imaginary mom, really. That, in order to be a good mom, I needed to love my kids and listen to the whisperings of the Spirit. Not only did I need to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit, but I needed to do what it prompted.

I realized that there is nothing wrong with the PTA president mom. Nor is there anything wrong with me. In fact, if my kids needed a “PTA president” kind of a mom, then they would have been sent to a family with such a mom. I started to realize that my children needed me. They might not need a mom that would go with them on a school field trips, but they would need a mom that would take them to a wash in the desert. I realized that they might not need a mom who ran the PTA, and maybe instead they needed a mom who stayed at home and wrote books for them.

In other words, I started to realize that my interests and talents didn’t need to conflict with my mission, but that they would actually help me to fulfill it! And that if I used my talents and interests to perform my work and mission on earth, then I wouldn’t feel depleted, but I would feel joy!!!

Less than a year after that, I started homeschooling my children. Our lives are very unconventional, but our lives are full of meaning and joy. My children are thriving and I am, too. The Lord has prepared me to be able to do the thing I was sent here to do.

This post is really long, but I am so grateful to know that we are known, specifically by the Lord. I spent a long time talking about motherhood, but I want to emphasize that this is only one possible mission. And it isn’t any better or worse than other roles and responsibilities. We don’t need to look around at what other people are doing, and then get frustrated with ourselves. This will stop us before we even start. Instead, we can listen to the interests and talents that the Lord has blessed us with. Most likely, it will be directly related to the mission we are here to fulfill.

The Lord knows us. He has known us since the beginning – before the earth was created, before we were a glimmer in our mother’s eye, before we were in the womb. We each have our own divine missions to fulfill, and the Lord will help to prepare us for it so we can accomplish it. And as we do fulfill our callings, we become chosen, and we will experience joy.

Isaiah Spoke to Scattered Israel – 1 Nephi 21:1

You can read 1 Nephi 21:1 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah. See Isaiah 49
  • The House of Israel, specifically scattered Israel, is beckoned to hearken.

A Proclamation to Scattered Israel

Again, in 1 Nephi 21, Nephi is quoting the prophet Isaiah. In a way, I don’t want to study only a single verse today, but I think that it might be helpful to do so.

We read:

“And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far; the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.” – 1 Nephi 21:1

This verse differs from that in Isaiah. Here is the scripture from the book of Isaiah in the King James Version of the Bible:

“Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.” –Isaiah 49:1

It can be hard to understand Isaiah, but the Book of Mormon can help us. Interestingly enough, in the Bible Dictionary, we are given this hint about understanding Isaiah:

“The reader today has no greater written commentary and guide to understanding Isaiah than the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. As one understands these works better he will understand Isaiah better, and as one understands Isaiah better, he more fully comprehends the mission of the Savior and the meaning of the covenant that was placed upon Abraham and his seed by which all the families of the earth would be blessed.” – Bible Dictionary: Isaiah

So, to better understand this prophecy of Isaiah, we will take a moment to look at the similarities and differences between Nephi’s account and the one of the King James Version of the Bible. Hopefully, as we study today, we will gain a better understanding of Isaiah’s prophecy. And then, as we better understand Isaiah, we will hopefully get a better understand the mission of the Savior and the Abrahamic Covenant which blesses us all.

Similarities

  • Both scriptures invite Israel to listen.
  • Both scriptures do indicate that this invitation is extended to people from a far away place.
  • Both scriptures also identify that the Lord has prepared Isaiah since the womb.

Differences

  • Isaiah 49:1 is significantly shorter. Though it does call out to people “from far,” not much more is said about the people to whom Isaiah and the Lord are talking.
  • In 1 Nephi we get much more detail about the intended audience of this prophecy.

Okay…so now let’s study the details Nephi included about the intended audience of this prophecy.

One – House of Israel

First of all, this prophecy is to the house of Israel. You know, at first I’m kind of tempted not to study much, and simply to think, Oh…I know what the house of Israel is – they are covenant people of God. And yes – this definition is fine. But for today, I know that I need to keep learning a little bit more about this.

In the Bible Dictionary, we read about the kingdom of Israel here, we read about the person Israel here, and Isaiah here.. I’m not going to include the whole entire entries for each. Instead, I will list a few bullet points:

  • Israel = One who prevails with God or Let God Prevail
  • The name of Israel was given to Jacob, and it also applies to his descendants and their kingdom.
  • Additionally, the name Israel means a true believer of Christ – regardless of their lineage or geographical location.
  • The kingdom of Israel, in about 925 BC, divided – into a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom.
  • The primary reason for the split of Israel was a revolt against the heavy taxes of Solomon and then his son, Rehoboam.
  • The northern kingdom was formed by ten tribes. They were known as Israel, the northern kingdom, or Ephraim (since Ephraim was a dominant tribe among them).
  • The southern Kingdom was formed primarily of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The southern Kingdom centered in Jerusalem and often was referred to as “Judah.”
  • Not long after the split, the northern Kingdom (Israel, Ephraim) slipped into apostasy even though many great prophets (including Elijah) ministered to them.
  • After about 200 years and 19 kings, the Northern Kingdom (Israel, Ephraim) was captured by the Assyrians and then carried away, captive. For this reason, they have been known as the “lost ten tribes of Israel.”
  • After the captivity of the Northern Kingdom (Israel, Ephraim), many promises and prophecies were given – that spoke of a time when they would return to the Lord and to His gospel. This is the “gathering of Israel.”
  • Isaiah was a prophet in Jerusalem (Judah) for 40 years or so – from 740-701 BC. Note that this was nearly 200 years after the split of Israel and Judah. Additionally, during Isaiah’s lifetime, the Northern Kingdom (Israel, Ephraim) was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Isaiah lived to see when they would be lost or scattered.

So – now back to 1 Nephi. Isaiah is speaking to the house of Israel – those who are broken off and driven out. This idea would make sense to him – he lived during the time that Israel (the Northern Kingdom!) was broken off and driven out by the Assyrians. Though so much of Israel was scattered, there is hope, and this prophecy given by Isaiah is to those who were driven out.

Two – Because of the Wickedness of the Pastors of my People

Why was Israel broken off and driven out? The answer is in this verse. It is because the pastors of the Lord’s people were wicked.

As we have already discussed, it didn’t take very long for the kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) to become apostate. They started to adopt the contemporary customs that were popular in the region – they started to worship Baal. It wasn’t necessarily an outright rebellion against God. Yes, sometimes they dismissed God completely, but it seems to me (I’m not a gospel scholar! I could be very, very wrong), that it was more of an adoption of other traditions, and a mingling of two or more philosophies.

In 1 Kings, we read:

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” – 1 Kings 18:21

“The people” that Elijah came to were the people of the Northern Kingdom – Israel. And they were going back and forth between two opinions. They didn’t quite want to let go of their traditions. Yet they also were accepting of Baal and general idolatry. Later in the chapter, Elijah mentions that he was the only prophet of the Lord in the land, yet there were at least 450 prophets for Baal.

So why was Israel broken off and driven out??? Because of the wickedness of the pastors of His people. The prophets were corrupt. They brought the people to Baal rather than Jehovah. This was a choice on Israel’s part – they departed from God. They cut themselves off. Because of this, they no longer had Him on their side, fighting their battles. They were defenseless and then driven out and scattered.

Note: I don’t think that everyone who was scattered was wicked. I don’t think that everyone who was scattered “halted between two opinions.” I don’t even think that everyone was scattered was solely from the Northern Kingdom.

In fact, Jerusalem would later be destroyed (as Lehi prophesied), and much of the remaining tribes – Judah and Benjamin and any other people of other tribes who were in Jerusalem at the time – would also be scattered and driven out, for the same reason.

Not all of these people are wicked. Some were scattered and driven out of the land because of their righteousness. For example – Nephi and his family – were driven out of the land, but this was an act of mercy that kept them safe from destruction in Jerusalem and blessed them with a promised land and civilization that would last a thousand years.

Three – Who are of My People

Yes, Israel was scattered, broken off, driven out. But they were still God’s people. He had covenanted with their fathers. He still loved them.

Four – O Isles

This is where it starts to get interesting to me, and I’m going to assume that this also was pretty interesting to Nephi.

Maui
The Isles of the Sea

The people who were “scattered abroad,” who were of God’s people – the people that the Lord is addressing – are on “isles.” This is the audience of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah says, “Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far;”. Nephi is one of those people. Later on Nephi’s brother Jacob, states:

“And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea.” – 2 Nephi 10:20

Of course Nephi would quote this scripture from Isaiah to his people. It is actually addressed, specifically, to his people. They were scattered abroad. They were of God’s people – Israel. They were on the “isles of the sea.” This prophecy was for them.

***

This might not seem really spiritual today, but I think that it is a good thing for us to understand as we read. The Lord was mindful of His people – that He had scattered. He didn’t forsake or abandon them. He didn’t set them up for failure like Lucy in Charlie Brown. They were in far-away lands. They were on the “isles of the sea,” but they were not forgotten. Still the Lord beckoned to them.

We can learn two things from that.

One – This understanding will help us to understand the rest of the prophecy as we study it. It will help us to understand what is meant by the Lord when we understand to whom He is speaking.

Two – This understanding is applicable to us, too. The Lord remembers each of us. He loves us. He knows us. He hasn’t forsaken us, even if we feel like we have been “driven out” or “broken off” from Him through various experiences in our lives. No, He beckons to each of us through his prophets. He wants to gather us in and bless each of us.

Like Nephi, we can take comfort in this prophecy given by Isaiah, a seemingly cryptic prophet, so long ago.

Instruction, Symbolism, and a Warning (Part Two) – 1 Nephi 20:20-22

You can read 1 Nephi 20:20-22 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah. See Isaiah 48.
  • The Lord is speaking to the house of Israel through Isaiah.
  • The children of Israel, God’s covenant children, are exhorted to go forth out of Babylon and to flee from the Chaldeans.
  • Instead of embracing Babylon and the Chaldeans, the house of Israel should sing out and praise God to the ends of the earth, saying that the Lord had redeemed them.
  • They should testify of the experiences their forefathers had in the wilderness as they fled Egypt.
  • They should also remember that the Lord has done even greater things.
  • Finally, the Lord gives a warning: There is no peace unto the wicked.

Instruction, Symbolism, and A Warning

Today, we will be wrapping up 1 Nephi 20. This is actually the second part of blog posts for these verses. In these verses, we are studying three main concepts. In part one we studied Instruction from the Lord and Symbolism (Click here for part one). Today, we will be studying a warning.

A Warning

A quick recap for a second. In this chapter, the Lord is speaking to the House of Israel through His prophet, Isaiah. Here at the end, He urged Israel to go forth of Babylon, flee the Chaldeans, and to testify of the Redeemer. He then reminded them that when fleeing Egypt, the children of Israel traveled through the desert without thirsting – the rock was smitten and then the waters gushed out. They were kept alive in the desert because of God.

And finally, we read:

“And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” – 1 Nephi 20:22

One
At the beginning of this verse, we read: And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also,…. The Lord really did deliver Israel. He really did cause water to flow out of a rock. He really did rain manna from heaven. He really did part the Red Sea. As amazing as these miracles sound, the Lord still did greater also.

Satellite view of Magellanic Cloud

As mentioned earlier in the chapter:

“Mine hand hath also laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens. I call unto them and they stand up together.” – 1 Nephi 20:13

Christ created the earth!

Additionally, we know even more than what Isaiah shared – as His prophecy was given hundreds of years before the Savior’s birth. When Christ came to the earth, He also performed amazing works. He healed the sick and gave sight to the blind.

We know that the Lord has done great works.

I think that there is another way that this verse needs to be applied – not only in God’s great works. In verse 21, the Lord recounts the deliverance of Israel. This deliverance was 100 percent because of the power of Jehovah. They did not do this on their own. They did not cause the water to spring forth from the rock. The Lord guided them to this solution. The Lord delivered His people.

The Savior not only delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage, but He did greater also. He came to the earth, lived a perfect life, loved and taught the people, suffered in Gethsemane, was taken and judged, died on the cross, and was resurrected. Remember – the rock was smitten, and the waters gushed out. Christ was smitten, and then His living waters gushed out. As a result, we are delivered.

Truly the Lord delivers His people.

***

Now, the interesting thing about 1 Nephi 20:22 is it starts with the phrase: “And notwithstanding…” Notwithstanding means despite. (By the way – quick piece of advice. Don’t just guess at a word’s meaning. Sometimes we don’t get it completely right. Sometimes the context might be confusing. Yes, I understand that you might know the definition of a word, but still, take a minute to look it up in the dictionary. Seeing the definition can sometimes help us to better understand exactly what is being expressed in a scripture…so YES. I did double check the meaning. My guess was notwithstanding=despite. I confirmed it by looking it up…now I can go on!)

So – notwithstanding means despite. Let’s substitute this word into the verse for a moment: And despite the fact he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.

The word “notwithstanding” kind of points us in a direction. This isn’t just a testimony of Christ and His deliverance. This is a warning.

Two
We listed a few things that the Lord hath done above.

  • He delivered captive Israel from bondage in Egypt.
  • He kept them alive in the wilderness in a miraculous way.
  • He created the earth.
  • He was born in the meridian of time, lived a perfect life, and served people – often performing many miracles.
  • He suffered, bled, died, for us, and was resurrected.

Despite all of that, though – there is no peace for the wicked. Despite Christ’s great power – power enough to create the earth, He cannot bless the wicked with His peace. Despite Christ’s grace, He cannot bless the wicked with His peace.

Recall what the Savior said earlier in the chapter:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” – 1 Nephi 20:18

If we want to be blessed with the peace that the Savior offers us – the peace which passeth all understanding – then we need to hearken to His commandments. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will be perfect. Remember – we are commanded to repent – which means it is understood that we will not get it all right.

Making a mistake isn’t what makes us wicked.

If our hearts are set upon Him, if we are looking to our Savior in faith, if we are pressing forward with faith in Christ, if we love Him, then we aren’t wicked.

Wickedness comes as a result of pride and then turning away from the Savior, not striving, or standing in that “great and spacious building” and jeering at those who are seeking the Lord. These are those who reject the Savior, and they also reject His peace.

Yes, Christ is powerful. He created the earth! But He will not make our choices for us. He will honor our agency and will allow us to experience the consequences of such expression. Peace is available, the Savior shares it willingly, but it is up to us to come unto Him if we want it.

***
We have had a lot of blog posts for 1 Nephi 20. I feel like I have learned a lot! I hope that you are feeling good about what we have studied. I’m not a scripture scholar. I don’t know much about Ancient Israel – the customs, etc. There are many barriers for me when it comes to understanding Isaiah. However, I know that if we take it a little bit at a time and if we will seek to have the Spirit with us, we can learn from his words.