Trouble in Paradise – 2 Nephi 4:13-14

You can read 2 Nephi 4:13-14 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Lehi’s death, Laman and Lemuel are angry with Nephi – because of the Lord’s admonitions.
  • Nephi was constrained by the Spirit of God to speak to them – most likely a warning.

Trouble in Paradise

Well, it shouldn’t come to a surprise to any of us that as soon as Lehi dies trouble brews between Nephi and his brothers. We read:

“And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.

For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.” – 2 Nephi 4:13-14

Nephi Was Constrained

First of all, a quick reminder on the definition of the word constrained:

Constrain: (verb)
appearing forced or overly controlled

Before blogging the Book of Mormon, I think that when I read that Nephi was “constrained” to speak to his brothers, I underestimated the severity of this spiritual impression. I also underestimated, or even forgot, Nephi’s responsibility to God.

I’ve never been in the Nephi was an annoying younger brother camp. Mainly because I think that it is an over-simplistic view, and it doesn’t match with what we know about Nephi. I’m even the oldest in my family. I have plenty of younger siblings. They have all excelled in various ways beyond my capabilities. My siblings are smarter, funnier, and more successful than I am. And rarely am in charge. In fact, I was shorter than my next sibling by the time I was four.

In other words, my siblings were the ones that were “large in stature.” Not me.

This isn’t to say that I don’t lead. Of course I have been a leader in my family. I had to babysit when I was a kid (like every oldest child – no big deal). I had the opportunity to be a cheerleader and help get my siblings excited about something or the opposite. Usually, I just “led” my siblings to do weird things like make potty jokes and sing weird songs that would annoy the grown ups of the house.

Often, I did treat my siblings poorly. We fought from time to time – especially when playing video games. I know I started some of those fights. I certainly didn’t prevent many fights. And, there may have been more punching (on my part) than I would like to admit.

My point is, I don’t want to make it sound like I was perfect. I wasn’t. I tried to be a nice sister because I loved my siblings, but we were also real.

Anyway, my family didn’t have the dynamic of Lehi’s family. So, it’s hard to really compare my family with his.

But I want to say that, as an oldest sibling, I have never been bothered or jealous of the wins and successes of my siblings. I was proud when my sister went on a mission. I love that my brother is a great cook. I know that my other younger brothers are much funnier than me. It doesn’t bother me that I have a brother that runs, we share this love. I went to a simple state college, and was not threatened (instead excited) when younger siblings were awarded entry and scholarships to really good schools.

The successes of my siblings have no bearing on my self worth. I love them and rejoice in their wins. Additionally, I know that the Lord doesn’t have a limited supply of blessings. We don’t have to compete for God’s blessings or love.

All of this shapes how I feel about Nephi. I don’t think that he was trying to be some annoying “know-it-all” younger brother. He knew the Lord. He loved his brothers. He forgave them time and time and time again. He never exercised power over them.

Instead, he was constrained by God to correct them.

Let’s think about this for a second:

One
Nephi was a special witness of the Savior. In 1 Nephi 11, Nephi sees the vision of the tree of life and its meaning. Nephi sees the coming of the Savior. Nephi sees a vision of Christ’s life on the earth. After this experience, Nephi doesn’t merely have faith, he has knowledge. Even before showing Nephi this vision, the Angel warned:

“And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.” – 1 Nephi 11:7

The knowledge that Nephi both sought and obtained came with responsibility. He not only had to qualify for such knowledge with faith, but he also had to have real intent – meaning that he intended to live according to the knowledge that he received.

If Nephi wanted to be nurtured by the Spirit, then he had to nurture the Spirit in his soul. This is done by obedience to the whisperings and promptings of the Spirit that we receive.

So, Nephi couldn’t be a wallflower. He knew too much. He couldn’t stand back while his brothers were plotting to kill his father. He couldn’t just pretend that Laman’s and Lemuel’s exceeding rudeness were okay. The Spirit wouldn’t let him.

It wasn’t Nephi that wanted to correct his brothers, It was a commandment from God given to Nephi to go and correct his brothers.

Think of how this usually ends for Nephi: getting beat, getting tied up and dragged into the wilderness, nearly getting pushed off a cliff, getting tied up on a boat. Do you really think that Nephi enjoyed these experiences? Do you really think that Nephi liked correcting his brothers – knowing that it would result in abuse?

nephi-laman-lemuel-ropes-d61da2-gallery.jpg

Of course not!

I wouldn’t have wanted to be Nephi.

But Nephi always obeys the Spirit. He corrects his brothers. He does this out of his devotion to God. And probably his love for his brothers. (Even though eventually he refers to them as enemies. But hey – he loves his enemies!)

The point here is, because Nephi was a special witness of the Savior and because Nephi was a devoted disciple of Christ, he knew he had to obey, or then he would be sinning.

Two
Lehi reminded Laman and Lemuel:

“Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.” – 2 Nephi 1:24

Laman and Lemuel can think of what they want about Nephi. Modernly, we can deride Nephi and imply that he was a know-it-all younger brother. HOWEVER, without Nephi, all of Lehi’s company – both Lehi’s family and Ishmael’s family – would have died in the wilderness with hunger.

Nephi got the brass plates.

Nephi made a new bow and hunted food in the wilderness.

Nephi built a boat.

He wasn’t just some know it all trying to correct his brothers at every chance. He wanted to get out of the wilderness and get to the promised land!!!!!! He lived worthy of the Spirit, and that Spirit constrained him to admonish his brothers.

Admonitions

I really should probably have ended this blog post already, but I want to say one thing about the word “admonition.” When I read the following verse, I think that I have misunderstood it in the past:

“And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.” – 2 Nephi 4:13

For some reason, I don’t have the right connotation of the word “admonition.” I’m trying to think of where my misunderstanding stems. I think that it is from the 13th article of faith – when I think of the phrase “the admonition of Paul.”

In a way, I have kind of mistakenly signified the word “admonition” to mean something like “doctrine.” I tend to define the “admonition of Paul” as the directives or doctrine of Paul – to believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things.

I tend to mentally define the scripture in 2 Nephi as “…Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the doctrines of the Lord.”

In both cases, I realize, I’m wrong.

(This is why the dictionary is such an important tool in scripture study. If we misunderstand a word, then we can misunderstand an entire concept).

Instead, admonition means the act of admonishing. Okay…that already starts to feel different. Laman and Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael: they didn’t dislike God’s doctrine. They disliked God’s admonishing.

What is admonishing? To warn or reprimand someone firmly.

Paul’s admonition isn’t just some fun little doctrine. It’s a warning: Believe all things, hope all things, endure all things…It’s strong advice that will keep us safe!

Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael…they weren’t angry about God’s doctrine. They were angry because of the warnings of the Lord. They were angry with the warning words that Lehi left them with (keep the commandments and prosper; don’t keep the commandments, be cut off!). They are like toddlers, but the anger that they have against these sound warnings will have deleterious effects.

Wrapping Up

This is along blog post. I will wrap it up now. But I feel that these things are important for us to recognize. Understanding these things helps me to consider my own discipleship. Do I get angry at the warnings and gentle correction of God? Do I get angry at the messengers of God’s word?

Do I have charity, and rejoice in truth – even if the truth is I have made a mistake and need correction?

Lehi Pleads with His Sons – 2 Nephi 1:16-29

You can read 2 Nephi 1:16-29 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi blesses and warns his sons a final time before his passing.
  • Lehi urges his sons to remember the statutes of the Lord.
  • Lehi has been weighed down with sorrow from time to time because of his sons – he has feared that because of the hardness of their hearts, they would be cut off from God and destroyed forever.
  • Lehi worries that they might be cursed for the space of many generations—this cursing would include war, famine, and hatred. He worries that they would be led by the devil because they had rejected the Lord.
  • Lehi pleads that these curses won’t come upon his sons, but the they would choose the Lord and be a favored people.
  • Lehi reminds his sons what the Lord said: Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
  • Lehi asks his son to rise up from the dust and be men – be determined not to come down into captivity.
  • Lehi urges his sons to awake and put on the armor of righteousness, shake off the chains, and arise from the dust.

Lehi Pleads with His Sons

We have been studying Lehi’s final blessings and warnings to his sons for several posts now. So far, as Lehi has spoken to Nephi’s older brethren, he has 1) reminded them of the miracles that they have experienced. 2) Lehi has taught them the conditions of the Promised Land. 3) He has told them to wake up! 4) and He has shared his testimony of the goodness of God.

Now, Lehi is pleading with his sons. You can read an overview of what he said to them above in the “context and general information section.”

There are so many things that we could learn and study from this passage. I am a parent, for example, so I can relate to Lehi’s pleadings with his sons. Parents want to see their children be happy. Parents want to see their children succeed. Lehi is weighed down with sorrow because he knows that his sons are on a path toward destruction, pain, and misery. He knows that they are on a path away from the Lord.

Thing that is really standing out to me is this phrase:

Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;

Arise from the Dust and Be Men

We’ve already talked about how Lehi wanted his sons to wake up. Here he is again pleading with them – to stand up – to be something.

They have had hard hearts, and he likens this hard-hearted state to dwelling in the dust. I’m not completely sure why. I don’t know Hebrew. I don’t have much knowledge on ancient customs. And maybe in the future I will look into it. But for now, it seems like Lehi is asking them to get up from the muck and the mire. Stand up! They aren’t toads. They aren’t dust dwellers. They are men. They are children of God.

I did find a talk by Elder Christofferson (who was in the presidency of the seventy at the time). He teaches:

“The prophet Lehi pled with his rebellious sons, saying, “Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men.” By age, Laman and Lemuel were men, but in terms of character and spiritual maturity they were still as children. They murmured and complained if asked to do anything hard. They didn’t accept anyone’s authority to correct them. They didn’t value spiritual things. They easily resorted to violence, and they were good at playing the victim.” -D. Todd Christofferson

I could spend plenty of time writing about what makes a man and what a man should be. I mean, I’ve got a list going in my head. But really, when it comes down to it, the Savior taught us best of all:

“…Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” – 3 Nephi 27:27

Lehi didn’t want Laman and Lemuel to arise from the dust and be a macho caricature of what we think a man should be. Lehi wanted his sons to live up to their covenants, their blessings, their potentials as sons of God. He wanted them to look to the teachings of Jehovah (Christ!), and be the kind of men the Lord would have them be.

pictures-of-jesus-smiling-1138511-gallery

And if Lehi had the scripture from 3 Nephi, I think we could have guessed that Lehi’s injunction for his sons to arise from the dust and be men would have meant that he wanted his sons to be as the Savior.

Now, if you read this blog regularly, then you know I’m a woman. But I think that this call to action applies to us, too – not only men. In the scriptures the term “men” is often applicable to both men and women. I don’t personally think that Lehi was meaning the word “men” in the universal way right here – as he was speaking with his sons. But I do think that this scripture can be applied universally. Additionally, I think that the Savior  wanted each of us—men and women—to be as He is.

Be Determined…That Ye may Not Come Down Into Captivity

Related to arising from the dust is not succumbing to captivity. Remember, Lehi has been admonishing his sons to shake off the chains of hell. Lehi has come full circle. He has taught his sons that there will be consequences for their hard-hearted actions. If they don’t keep the statutes of God, then they will be captive to Satan, first and foremost.

Though they may not experience obvious captivity immediately, there will be consequences to their actions. If they remain hard hearted, then they will be cut off from God. They will be cursed. They will experience death by the sword and by famine. Over time, the metaphorical chains that they carry will become more and more obvious, physically.

The thing that is most interesting to me is – Lehi is saying this to his sons in the promised land. They are the only inhabitants of the promised land. There is no kingdom or rule that they are to which subject. They don’t have to worry about foreign invasions or threats. They don’t have task-masters or power hungry dictators. They don’t have anyone at all there telling them what they can and can’t do. No one has any power or control over them.

Yet Lehi is warning them not to come down into captivity! Of course, He is warning them about the kind of captivity that is most dangerous—the captivity of our spirits and hearts due to sin.

I’m reminded of the scripture in Galatians:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1

This is the call of action that Lehi is giving to His sons. They are covenant people. The Savior has made them free with His blood. But the Lord will not force us into freedom! We have a choice. We can choose liberty – peace of conscious and peace of mind; or we can choose the yoke of bondage caused by sin.

This blog post is already long enough, but I just want to say that I know that wickedness never was happiness. This is because wickedness leads us to captivity. Any time we are pointed in a direction that does not lead to our Savior, then we are pointed on a path that leads to captivity. There are obvious examples of this. In fact, some of our choices (stealing, murdering, etc.) can even cause us to go to jail where we are in physical captivity.

There are other decisions like consuming pornography or addictive substances that enslave us.

But it is good for us to remember that even “little” seemingly less offensive sins cause us to become captives. Lack of gratitude, for example, can enslave us into feelings of victimization. Refusing to forgive is like wrapping our hearts in chains that do nothing to the person who offended us, but instead burden us down and destroy.

Instead, if we will “arise up and be men (and women),” and if we will be determined to act in faith, then we will not be captive to the consequences of sin.

Wake Up! – 2 Nephi 1:13-14

You can read 2 Nephi 1:13-14 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi is speaking to his sons shortly before his death.
  • Lehi pleads with his sons to “awake” from the deep sleep of hell, to shake off the chains that bind them and that are bringing them down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.
  • Lehi pleads with his sons to wake up, rise from the dust, and listen to the words of a trembling parent – he is about to die.

Wake Up!

I’ve always found these scriptures very interesting. Maybe it’s the imagery. Maybe it’s the pleading. I’m not sure, but I think it will be interesting to study them today.

We read:

“O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.

Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.” – 2 Nephi 1:13-14

I think that I want to start with verse 14 then go to verse 13.

Lehi is pleading with his sons – especially his elder sons Laman and Lemuel – to wake up!!!

They aren’t kids anymore. Lehi isn’t young. He’s about to die. Their rebellious decisions aren’t just little inconsequential choices. Their rebellions will have real consequences for them – eternally. They need to wake up!

I know why I like these verse. It’s the symbolism and imagery. I think that it is always easier to understand abstract gospel concepts with interesting concrete images. So – we will study these concrete images and what they symbolize.

Awake

First of all, Lehi gives his sons the command to awake. Does this mean that they are literally asleep? No. It is symbolic.

In the dictionary, we learn the definition of awake:

intransitive verb
1 : to cease sleeping : to wake up
// She awoke late that morning.
// The next day we awoke to the sound of drums.
— Sarah Ferrell
2 : to become aroused or active again
// when the volcano awoke
3 : to become conscious or aware of something
// awoke to the possibilities
At the same time, Italian prosecutors awoke to the international magnitude of their Sicilian underworld …
— Selwyn Raab

transitive verb
1 : to arouse from sleep or a sleeplike state
// He was awoken by the storm.
2 : to make active : to stir up
// an experience that awoke old memories” – Merriam-Webster.com

Thanks. I really like looking at and thinking of definitions. Lehi wants his sons to wake up. He wants them to become aroused, active, conscious, aware.

Deep Sleep; the Sleep of Hell

“Deep sleep” is obviously related to wake up. This is what Lehi is arousing them from.

In my mind, the “deep sleep” can possibly symbolize two things.

One
The “deep sleep” of Laman and Lemuel is their unawareness of God.

Think about Laman and Lemuel for a minute. We have Nephi’s record (which, by the way, is an abridged account. Remember, he wrote another account as did his father. This account that we have is a shorter record focusing on the ministry rather than the happenings). So, we have Nephi’s record. And we can see what Lehi and the rest of his family have gone through.

Laman and Lemuel have:

  • seen an angel
  • retrieved the brass plates through the power of God.
  • tied up Nephi in the wilderness only to have him miraculously loosed from the bands in which they tied him.
  • heard testimonies of Nephi, Lehi, and the women of Ishmael.
  • heard Lehi’s many prophecies and his dream.
  • had Lehi’s prophecies explained to them by Nephi.
  • turned to the Lord on many occasions – usually after some kind of negative experience.
  • been saved from death by Nephi’s thinking to make a bow.
  • used the Liahona – something that they didn’t have before leaving Jerusalem, but then it appeared while they were traveling. It directed them and it worked according to faith. So they have seen it work. And they have seen it not work.
  • built a ship according to the instruction of God.
  • been physically shocked by God’s power through Nephi.
  • repented and turned to the Lord repeatedly.
  • turned away from the Lord repeatedly.
  • tied up Nephi on the boat, only then to be in a storm for four days – that would have killed them.
  • seen the storm be calmed through Nephi’s prayers when they chose to be humble and release him.
  • arrived at the promised land—on the boat that they built through the direction of God!
  • lived in a promised land.

This is a lot of stuff! They have had so many experiences, but none of these experiences have woken them up to a lasting relationship with God. They are aloof, unaware, and spiritually unconscious.

Two
The deep sleep of hell makes me think of death. Specifically, spiritual death.

And how can we “wake up” when we are dead? Well, I suppose that this is where the Atonement of Jesus Christ comes in. He overcame death. He overcame hell. We don’t have to succumb to death and eternal “sleep.” We can wake up and follow the Savior instead.

Chains

Heavy_chains.jpg
Ch-Ch-Chaaaaaaiiiinnnnnns!

Again, another concrete image that helps us to understand an abstract concept.

Lehi pleads:

“…shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.” – 2 Nephi 1:13

Have you ever held a heavy chain? Have you ever wrapped yourself in a heavy chain? What does it feel like? Have you ever experienced the burden of a heavy chain? Though the chain is inanimate and inactive, it impacts us who wear them. It’s burden tires us out. Over time that burden will either destroy us, or we will choose what we must do to get them off.

Sin and Satan’s influence are like chains on our spirits. These chains will, as Lehi explained, drag us to hell if we don’t shake them off. Who wears chains? Prisoners, slaves, captives.

I can’t help but think of Jacob Marley from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Marley's Ghost
Marleys’ Ghost appears to Scrooge – in chains. (Artwork by John Leech)

Marley explains his chains:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Laman and Lemuel are doing the same thing. They have chosen, through their own free will, to wear metaphorical chains. And these chains will weigh them right down to hell. They have had ample opportunities to break from the shackles of the chains of sin, but they haven’t consistently chosen the Lord.

I realize, we can’t really break free from these chains on our own. We need the Lord. We need His atonement, then He empowers us to be free from them. If Laman and Lemuel want to break these chains, if we want to break these chains – then we need to “wake up” by turning to Christ.

Eternal Gulf of Misery and Woe

This is where the chains will drag us to if we choose to wear them.

Sure, Lehi could have simply said “hell.” But once again, this image is so much more powerful than the abstract concept of hell.

Eternal – never ending – abyss.

Gulf – pit

Misery and woe – sadness, depression, anguish, despair, torment, torture, sorrow, grief, agony.

This is where Lehi’s oldest sons are headed if they will not wake up! Wake up guys! You’re headed down to anguish and despair!

Conclusion

Truly, Lehi is a loving parent – trembling with both fervor and love for his children – even in his old age. He cannot force his sons to wake up, no matter how much he is trying to arouse their faculties and wake them up. This is something that they must choose to do – awake!

I’m grateful for the scriptures – I know that some people don’t really care for symbolism, but I love it. These symbols can help us to better understand the abstract concepts of the gospel. Of course, I understand that Satan and sin – are bad for our souls with bad future consequences. But what a different it makes to think of sin as a chain and hell as an abyss of anguish, misery, and woe.

I hope that we will learn from Laman and Lemuel, and that we will choose to “awake!”, that we will look to the Lord and let His light and love shine on us.

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.

The Lord Did Suffer It – 1 Nephi 18:11-16

You can read 1 Nephi 18:11 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi because he had spoken to them with much soberness earlier.
  • Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi with cords and treated him with harshness.
  • The Lord “suffered it” – that Nephi would be bound this time.

This Time, Nephi Suffers

One particular concept is really standing out to me as I study this block of scriptures. In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.” – 1 Nephi 18:11, emphasis added

This isn’t the first time that Nephi has been hurt by his brothers.

Orchid Tree Flower
Sometimes you just need a random picture of an orchid tree bloom.

One
In 1 Nephi 3, after attempting to get the plates of brass from Laban, Nephi and his brothers lost all of their wealth. They nearly lost their lives. Laman and Lemuel were angry and started to beat Nephi and Sam with a rod.

As Laman and Lemuel were smiting Nephi and Sam an angel stops them and promises that the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands (which is exactly what happened).

Two
In 1 Nephi 7, after Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam persuaded Ishmael and his family to leave Jerusalem and go with Lehi’s family to a promised land, Laman and Lemuel decide to rebel.

Nephi angered Laman and Lemuel because he spoke the words he was constrained (by the Spirit) to speak. He reminded Laman and Lemuel that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and that if they went back to Jerusalem they would perish along with it, but they were free to do as they chose.

Laman and Lemuel didn’t like what Nephi said, so they tied him up with the intention to let him die in the desert. This time, Nephi prayed:

“But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.

18 And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.” – 1 Nephi 7:17-18

So – for a second time, Nephi’s life was jeopardized by his brothers, and the Lord saved him from death. (By the way, we should note that saving Nephi’s life in this situation also saved Laman’s and Lemuel’s lives.)

Three
After years of journeying in the wilderness, after the Brass Plates, getting Ishmael’s family, the vision of the tree of life, and the Nephi’s broken bow, Ishmael died. I can only imagine that this was a really difficult experience for everyone – in both Lehi’s and Ishmael’s family.

I would imagine that the threat of dying in the desert was always there, but now – after Ishmael died – I’m guessing that Lehi’s and Ishmael’s family were confronted with their mortality and the very real threat posed by the journey they were taking.

The daughters of Ishmael started to mourn, and this mourning turned to murmuring. Laman and Lemuel took advantage of this opportunity conspire against Nephi and Lehi. They suggested murdering their own father and brother in the wilderness.

If you really stop to think about it, it’s insane, but Laman and Lemuel’s insanity isn’t the point of this blog post. This time, we don’t have a record of any violence happening to Nephi, other than the fact that Laman and Lemuel stirred up the hearts of the others to anger. So – they were thinking about it. Perhaps they were even plotting the death. Who knows.

What we do know is “the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly…” (See 1 Nephi 16:38). They repented and stopped with their crazy plans.

Four
When building the boat, Laman and Lemuel refused to help Nephi. He tried to rally up their help, but they just got angry. We read:

“And now it came to pass that when I had spoken these words they were angry with me, and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea; and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.” – 1 Nephi 17:48

The Lord empowered Nephi to get out of this situation by physically shocking his brothers. Like with an electrical shock. This worked with Laman and Lemuel just long enough for them to help build a boat.

***
So now, let’s go back to 1 Nephi 18 – and think about that again:

“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.” – 1 Nephi 18:11, emphasis added

Now, when Nephi is tied up on the ship while they are sailing on the open ocean, the Lord didn’t send an angel. He didn’t loosen the bands. He didn’t speak to Nephi’s brothers. He didn’t “shock” Laman and Lemuel through Nephi. Instead, “suffered it” to happen. Meaning, he allowed Nephi to be tied up on that boat in the middle of a raging storm.

We read why – “…that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.”

And what was that word?

“And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.” – 1 nephi 2:21

When Nephi had been bound earlier by his brothers – he warned them that if they rebelled against God, then they would perish. (See 1 Nephi 7:15.)

Lehi had expressed his fears to Laman and Lemuel after having the vision of the tree of life. He worried that they would be cast off forever because in the dream they had refused to take hold of the iron rod and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Lehi exhorted them to listen to his words and turn to the Lord.

After hearing about Lehi’s dream, Nephi turned to the Lord for help in understanding what it meant. Laman and Lemuel, on the other hand, started to argue. Later, Nephi joined his brothers in his father’s tent – only to find that they had been arguing about his father’s prophecies.

Nephi asks them

“Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?” – 1 Nephi 15:10

When Nephi asked his brothers for help in building the ship, they refused. He spoke to them with the energy of his soul, and they got pretty angry. They tried to cast him into the sea. The Lord filled Nephi with his power and then commanded Nephi to stretch forth his hand.

When Nephi stretched out his hand, Laman and Lemuel were shocked, they knew that God was with him and that God had commanded him to build a ship. So – they should be able to believe everything else that both Lehi and Nephi had testified to them concerning the wicked – that those who rebel against God will be cut off.

But they forgot. They refused to believe. Whatever it was, Laman and Lemuel weren’t having it. And this time, the Lord allowed Nephi to suffer so that Laman and Lemuel would see that everything Lehi and Nephi had been saying before was true – that if they rebel, they would be cut off. (And it was this fear of death, that finally got them to repent.)

***
I’ve taken a long time to get to the real point, but for now it is to point out that Sometimes the Lord lets us suffer. He let Nephi suffer on the boat for days – completely exposed to the elements. Can you even imagine it?

Of course, we can rest assured that the Lord lets us suffer for a good reason. He isn’t fickle. He isn’t forgetting about us. He has a plan for all of His children. This is why there are times when He steps in and provides a miracle. Other times, He seems to be “asleep” as the storm rages all around us.

Regardless of what the Lord does – whether he delivers us or “suffers it,” we can know – just as Nephi did – that there is a good reason for it. In Nephi’s case, this was a real example, a living object lesson on what the Lord has been teaching about the wicked – that those who rebel will be cut off and perish.

It wouldn’t be long before Laman and Lemuel would be cut off from the Lord. Because Heavenly Father loves them, He warned them. He warned them in several different ways. Heavenly Father tried to speak in a language that Laman and Lemuel would understand – from an angel, to a miracle, to their father’s voice, to His own voice, to a physical shock, and now the raging sea. Later on, when the Lord cuts off Laman and Lemuel, He will not cut them off due to their ignorance. They will rebel.

Essentially, they will cut themselves off from the Lord.

So – allowing Nephi to remain tied up on the ship was a merciful act – both by the Lord and by Nephi. I’m sure that this also served as a good reminder to Nephi to be faithful to God. Though Nephi suffered, there was purpose in it.

Nephi’s experience wasn’t easy, but in the end Nephi was okay, and the Lord’s will was accomplished.

Rudeness and Remembering – 1 Nephi 18:9-10

You can read 1 Nephi 18:9-10 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • The Family of Lehi is on the ship headed towards the promised land.
  • After some time, Nephi’s brethren, the sons of Ishmael, and their respective wives began to “make themselves merry.” This isn’t an innocent celebration, but they are dancing, singing, and speaking “with much rudeness.”
  • Nephi’s brethren, the sons of Ishmael, and their respective wives also forgot by what power that they had been brought onto the boat and the open sea.
  • They were lifted up unto “exceeding rudeness.”
  • Nephi began to fear because of their behavior – that the Lord would be angry with them because of their iniquity and then be swallowed up into the depths of the sea.
  • Nephi spoke to them with soberness, but they were angry.

Rudeness and Remembering

Let’s Set the Scene

In 1 Nephi 18:9, we read that the family of Lehi had been “driven forth before the wind for the space of many days.” Things are going well. So well, in fact, that the following happens:

“…behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing,…” – 1 Nephi 18:9

It doesn’t seem too bad. But Nephi continues:

“…behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness…yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.” – 1 Nephi 18:9

Rudeness

It’s not that they aren’t allowed to be happy, to dance, to sing, and to speak. It’s that they did this with much rudeness.

What, exactly does Nephi mean by rudeness? Well, there is a footnote for the word rudeness in 1 Nephi 18:9. We are directed to 2 Nephi 1:2 and also the Topical Guide: Rioting and Reveling

We read:

“And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.” – 2 Nephi 1:2

It isn’t just that Nephi’s brothers were getting a little rowdy. It’s that they were actually being rebellious.

Which, let’s just think about that for a minute…rebellious! On the open sea?!?!?!?!

pacific ocean at sunrise

Beautiful…yes. But imagine, you are on a boat. And this is what you see – 360º around you. I haven’t ever experienced this. For the most part, I’ve been a landlubber. I mean, of course I’ve gone to the ocean. I love the beach. I love the sea. I’ve lived on an island. But I’ve never been on a boat so far away from land that I was 100% reliant on that boat. 100% reliant on the captain of the ship, the elements, or God. I’ve never been in the middle of the ocean on a boat that was hand-built by me and my brothers.

This is the time, while they are sailing on the open sea, after having built a boat themselves (which they didn’t even believe that they could build in the first place!), that they are deciding to become rebellious!!!

Forgetting God

Why on earth would Nephi’s brethren pick this time to get rebellious, well the answer is found in the verse:

“And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry, insomuch that they began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness.” – 1 Nephi 18:, emphasis added

They became rebellious, riotous, and rude because they forgot about the power that had brought them into the ocean in the first place. They forgot that they had doubted they could make a ship and then mocked Nephi for the suggestion. They forgot that the Lord shocked them. They forgot that despite their original skepticism, they did indeed build a boat. – All with the help of a loving and patient Heavenly Father.

They forgot that they had travelled years in the wilderness being guided by God.

They forgot that they had gone to Jerusalem, lost all of their wealth, and nearly lost their lives retrieving the plates. They forgot the angel that stopped them from beating their brother. They forgot that the Lord delivered Laban into Nephi’s hands and that Zoram had also joined their company because he was comforted by Nephi’s words.

They forgot that they, through the mercy and help of God, were able to go back again to Jerusalem and get Ishmael and his family. They forgot that they tried to tie up Nephi in the wilderness and leave him for dead, but that the Lord loosened Nephi’s bands. They forgot that one of the daughters of Ishmael bore testimony and softened their hearts. They forgot about their safe return to their father’s tent in the wilderness.

They forgot that the Lord blessed them with a “curious workmanship” (the Liahona) that guided them in the wilderness.

They forgot that after Nephi broke his bow, the entire family nearly perished in the wilderness and that their murmuring didn’t help the situation. They forgot the urging that Nephi gave so that they would all turn back to the Lord. They forgot the chastisement that the Lord gave them in the wilderness and then the mercy He showed when Nephi was able to make a bow and obtain food for their family once again.

They forgot Ishmael’s death – a very real reminder of the perilous journey they were on.

They forgot God, time and time and time again. And then chose, while on the open sea – completely exposed to the most brutal of elements, to forget the power of God again.

Why Remember?

Because of their forgetting and subsequent rudeness, Nephi gets a little worried. Well, I guess he gets a lot worried.

What’s it to him? Why does Nephi care so much that Laman and Lemuel and his other brethren “are lifted up unto exceeding rudeness?”

(Hint: Sharks, Storms, Waves, Capsizing…)

We read:

“And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us, and smite us because of our iniquity, that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea; wherefore, I, Nephi, began to speak to them with much soberness; but behold they were angry with me, saying: We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us.” – 1 Nephi 18:10

Nephi is also in danger because of their actions. So, yeah, he is a bit concerned. And I think that we should have a similar reaction to our own “forgetting.” The problem with forgetting is that when we forget, we are then led to act in rudeness or iniquity. Remembering helps us be humble and righteous.

Do We Remember?

So – maybe it is a good time for me (and you – if you would like) to evaluate our own “remembering” practices.

For me, lately I have felt it imperative to keep a journal. I’ve been on my own “journey” (as we all are), and I know that I have been learning things and having experiences that are crucial for me to remember. If I want to do what I was sent here to do, then I need to remember these current feelings and ideas.

So, I write in my journal. The other night, I had a dream. When I woke up from it, I knew immediately that it was a dream to really think about – that it was a message to me. I wasn’t able to record it in that immediate moment, and I knew that I would have trouble remembering it until morning, so I repeated the dream to myself about three or four times. Then, when I was able to write it down, I wrote it down.

Though writing helps us remember, sometimes it is insufficient. We may need to do other things, too.

I’ve found that if I write down an experience, it is helpful also to review it. This can be in the form of simply rereading the experience. Maybe it also means sharing it with others – telling the story over and over again. In this way, the details become etched in my brain.

Oh – another idea, if you’re not into writing a journal, pictures! Videos. Whatever works for you. There are so many ways to record. We don’t have to etch into metal plates. You can record a voice recording on your phone, write in a journal, snap a picture, draw, blog, etc.

All that matters is we remember. And what should we specifically remember? – by what power [we are] brought hither.

When we remember the power of God in our lives, and how it has pointed us on a course that has brought us to this precise, present moment, then we will have the courage to continue on the path rather than to rebel.

Convinced by the Power of God – 1 Nephi 17:48-55

You can read 1 Nephi 17:48-55 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi finished his “speech” to Laman and Lemuel. They were angry with what he said and wanted to throw him into the depths of the sea. As they came up to him, he commanded them not to touch him – as he was filled with the power of God unto the consuming of his flesh.
  • Nephi then told them not to murmur against their father and to help him build the ship according to God’s commandment.
  • Nephi testifies that he could do anything God commanded him.
  • Nephi reasons that God has the power to make the water into dry ground, why not enough power to teach Nephi how to build a boat?!
  • Nephi confounded his brothers with his testimony.
  • The Lord also told Nephi to stretch out his hand. In so doing, the Lord shocked Laman and Lemuel. Nephi did as instructed. Laman and Lemuel weren’t killed or seriously injured, but they were shaken and then finally convinced that Nephi had been commanded to build a boat and that the Lord would show him how to do it.
  • Laman and Lemuel, after being shocked, wouldn’t touch Nephi for several days. They also fell down to worship Nephi.
  • Nephi wouldn’t suffer Laman and Lemuel to worship him – reminding him that he is their younger brother, they shouldn’t worship him, but they should worship God and honor their parents.

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Convinced by the Power of God

There is something that is really standing out to me today as I read. After Nephi has recounted examples of God’s power from their history and the scriptures, he then makes a conclusion that the Lord – with His great power – will deliver them just as He has delivered so many others.

This line of reasoning didn’t convince Laman and Lemuel of God’s power. It shut them up for a moment, but they needed to physically feel God’s power (they were shocked!) in order to be convinced. They don’t draw upon their past experiences of witnessing God’s power. They won’t remember the times when they have seen an angel, heard the voice of the Lord, or experienced His still, small voice. They refuse to learn from the scriptures and experiences of others. (Remember, Moses and the children of Israel aren’t just “ancient scriptures” to them – these are their forefathers! this is the history of Israel!)

The only way that Laman and Lemuel are convinced of God’s ability to empower Nephi to build a boat is when they are physically shocked.

I can’t say that I’m always the best at remembering and believing. There are times when the Lord has had to hit me with the proverbial frying pan. I can say that these experiences aren’t always the most pleasant. It is just so much easier (in the long run) to have faith!

There are times when life requires a lot of faith from us; there are times when we may be more reliant on the tender mercies of God than others. There are times when, after years of traveling through our own “wilderness,” we are on the shores of the sea, we need to build a boat, we have nearly made it to our “promised lands.” But one last big push must be made. We have to exercise our faith in ways that stretch us.

In these moments, maybe it is helpful to remember Nephi’s words:

“And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” – 1 Nephi 17:51

We have the blessing of hindsight. Nephi’s reasoning why not trust the Lord is right. Nephi knew the Lord was trustworthy – that He would deliver them. And we know that the Lord did deliver Nephi and his brothers. Nephi DID build a boat. And it wasn’t just some dinghy. It carried their family from the Arabian Peninsula to the Americas. It crossed at least two oceans. This boat withstood that terrible storm we will read about in coming chapters.

It worked!

The Lord was powerful enough to instruct Nephi to build a ship that would safely deliver them to the Promised Land.

We know this, and we have countless examples of the Lord’s power working in the lives of His children.

So – if we are having trouble trusting God, then we can ask ourselves the same question: If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot empower me and deliver me?

He can. And He will.