And Thus We See (2) – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 17:1-4 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they travel eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
  • The women bore children in the wilderness.
  • The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
  • They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
  • The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
  • Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.

And Thus We See – God’s Commandments Must Be Fulfilled

When I started studying this topic in the last blog post, it took me a while to really understand what Nephi was trying to say.

I guess it tells you a little bit about my personality that when I read God’s Commandments must be fulfilled, a little question mark went in my head. Does this mean we have no agency? Well, of course not! If there is anything that I know about Heavenly Father, it’s that He honors our agency to the end. He won’t even force us to accept His blessings!

Finally, I realized that perhaps this phrase isn’t so much about destiny or force, but it is about the trust we can put in God. We can trust that if we choose to keep His commandments, then they must be fulfilled.

Perhaps an illustration of what I mean is more helpful. Nephi was commanded to go to Jerusalem to get the plates of Brass. He obeyed. Though he didn’t know how he would finally get the plates, He knew that God wouldn’t give him a commandment that could not be fulfilled. He trusted that God isn’t like Lucy (from Peanuts). He isn’t going to set up the football, wait for us to wind up for the kick, and then pull the ball away at the last second leaving us flat on the ground.

God’s Commandments Must All Be Fulfilled = We CAN Trust in God!!!!

We can trust God – that not only does He give commandments, but He provides ways for us to keep the commandments. We read:

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3

He Doth Nourish

While Nephi and his family were in the wilderness, they were nourished, physically. We read:

“And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men;…” – 1 Nephi 17:2

I really can’t even imagine giving birth to children and feeding them while in the desert wilderness of the Arabian Peninsula. When I had my children, life wasn’t necessarily perfect, but I had all of the comforts I needed for my health and for the health of my children – a bassinet, swing, vibrating chairs, nursing pump, bottles, pacifiers, DISPOSABLE DIAPERS AND WIPES!!!! I had clean water, fruits and veggies, meat (cooked), etc. If I had a craving, then I was able to either get it for myself, or I was able to cajole my husband into getting it for me (I can’t even think of how many pizzas he made while I was pregnant with my third daughter!). I wasn’t in the wilderness. I wasn’t in the desert of Saudi Arabia. I had it so much easier than the women of Lehi’s family!

Yet they kept the commandments. They kept the personal commandment – to go to the Promised Land. They kept the relatively more generic (though personally applied) commandment of multiplying and replenishing the earth.

And the Lord nourished them.

The Lord nourished them in His own way, too. This may not have been particularly pleasant, but it kept them nourished and safe from marauders. Because of the nourishment of the Lord, they were able to keep the commandments. They trusted in the Lord, that His commandments weren’t silly suggestions, but that they must be fulfilled, and they were.

If we will put our trust in God, then we will also be nourished and be enabled through His grace to do what He has asked us to do.

And Strengthen Them

The nourishment that the Lord provided to Lehi and his family also strengthened them.

“Nourish and Strengthen.” It’s kind of a trite expression that I poke fun at. I always seem to say this in my prayers when praying over my food…that it will nourish and strengthen my body.

nourish and strengthen
This Shampoo sounds a lot like my meal-time prayers…

(Note: There have been times when I try to switch it up, and I truly don’t want my prayers to be a “vain repetition.” So – when I say “nourish and strengthen,” I try to actually mean it. And I try NOT to say this when I’m about to chow down on brownies, for example. hahaha..)

Though “nourish and strengthen” may be an overused expression in our church culture, we don’t want to overlook it now.

The Lord will nourish us and strengthen us!

91B37087-A277-4574-B57F-1ABEA5478213
Seems impossible, but this weed is growing out of a brick wall. The Lord can do the same with us.

And provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them

Often we are given personal commandments that seem nearly impossible for us to complete. Think of Lehi and his family. Really, how on earth were they supposed to do what they did? There is no way that they could have successfully made it to the promised land without the tender mercies of the Lord. Recall what Nephi promised to show us through his record:

“…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – 1 Nephi 1:20

Often, keeping the personal commandments that God has given us, requires a bit of faith on our part. But if we will exercise that faith, then we can be sure that He will bless us with His tender mercies. These small blessings and “coincidences” will enable us to do whatever it is that He has directed us to do.

Elder Bednar taught:

“We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – David A. Bednar

The Lord’s tender mercies are the providence that He gives us. He doesn’t command us and then leave us alone. He is such a loving God. He will help us to keep the very commandment He gave. I can’t leave out the quintessential scripture on the subject:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

I think that in 1 Nephi 17:3, when Nephi states, And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled, he is trying to say that we can trust God. He is trying to say that there is no risk in keeping the commandments. Though they may not be easy, and we may suffer trials and afflictions, we can rest assured—God’s commandments will be fulfilled. God does support His children. He nourishes and strengthens them. He provides a way for us to keep His commandments. He will provide means for us while we sojourn in the “wilderness” of our lives.

We can trust Him.

And Thus We See (1) – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 17:1-4 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they travel eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
  • The women bore children in the wilderness.
  • The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
  • They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
  • The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
  • Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.

And Thus We See

Nephi quickly relates how his family journeyed again in the wilderness. They started going a new direction (eastward), and they waded through much affliction in the wilderness.

Things were hard.

But Nephi also teaches us a lesson:

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3

The phrase and thus we see lets us in on the fact that Nephi is trying to emphasize a lesson that they have learned. Remember, this account is taken from the Small Plates that Nephi was commanded to make later on. The small plates contain only the things that please God – the ministry of Nephi and his people. Nephi has left out many details and many experiences that he and his family went through. He is sharing the highlights so we can learn the lessons that he learned in his life.

So – here’s a bit lesson that Nephi learned. He wants us to realize that, and he begins “And thus we see.”

The Commandments of God Must Be Fulfilled

I wish I knew better on what this meant. I mean, I get the idea – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. But does this mean that it comes at the expense of our agency?

I don’t think so.

As I think about it, the concept “many are called, but few are chosen,” comes up. We read it in the scriptures:

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

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36

Okay- so this is interesting. We read that many are called, but few are chosen. And then the question comes up – why are they not chosen??? The Lord answers –

  • because their hearts are set upon the things of the world
  • They aspire (not to keep the commandments of God) to the honors of men
  • The Rights of the priesthood are connected with the powers of heaven
  • The powers of heaven are controlled by principles of righteousness.

Elder Bednar taught:

“I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar, emphasis added

What does this have to do with the phrase – the commandments of God must be fulfilled?

Well – I think that there are times when this is true – His commandments must be fulfilled. I kind of think that if Lehi chose not to listen to God’s call to flee Jerusalem, then the Lord would have led out another family. His work will roll forth. If Joseph Smith hadn’t chosen to listen, then I think another would have been sent to do Joseph’s work.

This is totally my own personal opinion, I realize. I don’t know if there is any doctrinal soundness to it, and I really can’t take the time to look it up right now.

The commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem for a promised land had a much broader purpose than he could have ever imagined. Yes, it would be a blessing to him and his family immediately. They wouldn’t die in Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is gonna be big. A lot of people will die. Those that don’t die will be taken to Babylon as slaves. This period in Jewish history isn’t pretty. So, leading Lehi out of Jerusalem would make an immediately positive impact on Lehi’s life. Though they traveled in the wilderness for 8 years, it was an immediate blessing.

(By the way – based on how quickly Lehi fled and how he sent his family back to Jerusalem repeatedly, but didn’t go himself – I think that his life was in immediate danger. I don’t think that Lehi would have lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem. I think that the people would have killed him before that happened. They already sought his life.)

So – the commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem definitely had an immediate blessing. It was also a blessing to them eight years later when they all actually arrived at the promised land.

But what Lehi couldn’t have fully grasped is how his choice to obey would impact generations of his own seed and then millions of others.

hedgehog cactus bloom
Random Picture for Your Enjoyment

Lehi’s Own Seed
Lehi’s own seed was blessed. The Nephite civilization lasted for about 1000 years. The Lamanite civilization ebbed and flowed for that length of time and longer. And still, there are remnants of the Lamanites living now.

During the heights of the civilization, however (from 600 BC to 400 AD), they experienced many blessings. They had the gospel, they saw the Savior, they had riches, they had comforts, roads, etc. Lehi’s decision to keep God’s commandments and flee into the wilderness blessed his posterity for a long, long time.

Millions of Others
I am blessed. And I’m among many others who are blessed because of Lehi’s decision to obey the voice of the Lord. Without Lehi’s choice to keep the commandments – to flee Jerusalem, to have his sons retrieve the plates, to have his sons persuade Ishmael and his family to accompany them, to journey in a difficult wilderness, to board a boat and sail across the world – we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon today.

I truly cannot imagine my life without the influence of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me light, guidance, comfort, and hope. It has helped to calm my soul in times of difficulty. It has brought me to a better understanding of my loving Savior.

Because of the Book of Mormon, I have a knowledge and testimony of my Savior.

The Lord knew this. He prepared this. His commandment – for Lehi to flee Jerusalem – needed to be fulfilled in order for His work to be done. This commandment would help to set off events for the gathering of Israel. This is a major part of the Lord’s work.

So – His commandments must be fulfilled. That’s the way it is. They must be! And we have a choice – are we going to be a part of it or not?

And, I think that that the real point that Nephi was getting at – the Lord doesn’t command lightly. He doesn’t give us suggestions and then raise his hands and shrug his shoulders when a challenge comes up.

The Lord gives us a commandment, and He has a way for it to be fulfilled.

So – If we are willing to keep God’s commandments, we can trust that they must be fulfilled. We can trust that this means He will provide a way for them to be fulfilled. We can trust that He isn’t a God that commands in vain.

More on this concept in the next post.

The Liahona Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood and sticks and then went to his father for direction, Lehi went to the Lord. The Lord chastised Lehi for murmuring and complaining against him. Lehi was extremely sorrowful.
  • The Lord told Lehi to look at the ball of curious workmanship (the Liahona) that he had provided them. When Lehi looked at it, he read a message that was written on it. He feared and trembled because of what it said – as did Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael and the wives.
  • Nephi beheld that the Liahona worked according to faith, diligence, and heeding the directions that it gave.
  • There was a new writing on the Liahona – it was plain to read and gave them understanding concerning God’s ways. The message written on the Liahona changed from time to time, and it likewise worked according to their faith, diligence, and heed.
  • By small and simple means the Lord can bring about great things.

The Liahona – How It Works

In the previous post, we learned that God communicated with Lehi and his family through the Liahona. But it didn’t happen magically. There was work that Lehi and his family needed to do in order to have the Liahona take any kind of effect in their lives.

In the previous post, we also learned that we have modern-day examples of Liahonas in our lives – the scriptures and Priesthood blessings. Like the Liahona, they aren’t magic, but they require work on our part in order for them to be effective.

Nephi explained:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.” – 1 Nephi 16:28

The Liahona worked only according to faith, diligence, and the heed that they gave to it.

Faith

sunrise in Phoenix

First of all, the Liahona only worked according to the faith of Lehi and his family. Alma explains this really well:

“And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.” – Alma 37:40

Notice how Alma explains that the Liahona worked according to their faith in God. They didn’t have faith in the Liahona. They didn’t start worshipping the Liahona. They trusted God. They trusted that God would give them the right direction to go through the Liahona.

What stands out to me is this – in our own lives, if we want to have direction, then we also need to have faith. Faith doesn’t mean simply that God will let us have whatever we think we want. Faith means that we trust His direction, even if we are being pointed in a way that doesn’t seem to be where we want to go.

I’ll give a more concrete example. Years ago, I applied for a dumb job at a health club. I was a young mom with two kids. This was during my first marriage. My (ex)husband worked during the days, and this job would be in the early evening. I was hoping to get this job so that I could have a free membership to the health club – and then hopefully get in shape, too.

I went and filled out an application, etc. I prayed, and I thought to myself, Yes, I have faith that I can get this job! For a moment, I thought that’s what was required. I knew that God was capable of helping me get this job. I knew that He was powerful. I had faith.

But, as this thought process continued, I was corrected. Faith isn’t merely thinking that God is able. Faith means that we will accept His will for us – that we trust Him even if it isn’t what we think we want. Faith meant that I would be grateful and happy for His guidance and help in my life, even if I didn’t get that job at the Health Club.

Well, you might be able to guess it. I did NOT get the job. But I felt comforted. I had faith. I knew that I did my best, that I prayed, and that I trusted God. In this case, I was able to see the blessing of my faith and God’s “no” answer to my prayers. A few weeks later, one of my friends told me about how she would work at another health club – once a week – for a few hours in the late evening after it closed. She was moving, and there would be an opening. I told her I was interested.

I didn’t have to do anything – no paperwork, no application. I was chosen! This “job” didn’t pay money – instead it was a barter – my family and I had a free membership to the health club, and I went in on Wednesday nights at 10:30 PM to help with some basic cleaning. Usually, we worked until about 1:30 AM. It was actually a lot of fun, too. This solution was better than my solution.

Trusting in the Lord worked. I couldn’t see the solution. I couldn’t see the blessing. But because of faith in the Lord -even when things didn’t originally work out – I was able to experience more of what I wanted with the blessing He had in store.

***

I figure that there were times when the spindles of the Liahona pointed Lehi and his family in a direction that may have had them scratching their collective head. They had to trust God. They had to have faith in God.  And the same for us – we must have faith in God, not the scriptures; not the priesthood; not our patriarchal blessing – we must have faith in the God who gave us these things.

Diligence

waves of the sea

Okay. Dictionary time…

Diligence: Careful or persistent work or effort.

Now, the thought that keeps coming to me is a possible relationship between diligence and the concept of our progress coming line upon line, precept upon precept. I hope I can explain this in a way that makes sense.

We are taught, over and over again, that we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. In 2 Nephi, we read:

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” – 2 Nephi 28:30

Heavenly Father directs us:

  • Line upon line
  • precept upon precept
  • here a little
  • there a little

His direction does not come all at once. This is why we need to pray always. It isn’t a mistake or problem on our part if we pray, pray, and pray again for something. I would guess that Lehi daily prayed that his family would make it to the promised land. This was not out of faithlessness.

He had a huge task ahead of him – a task that took 8 years to complete. It would have been insane for Heavenly Father to give Lehi every direction of this journey in one single moment at the beginning of their trip. Imagine that! If Heavenly Father gave all of His direction in one instance – all of the direction that would take 8 years to complete – it would have been overwhelming, and I believe that Lehi would have failed.

Instead, Lehi and his family get their guidance piecemeal. So, they must be diligent. They complete step one, and then they need to go back to the Lord, in humble prayer, in order to receive step two.

It is the same in our lives. We need to pray always, we need to be diligent in our obedience and in our seeking, in order to receive the direction we want and need in our lives. We need to read the scriptures every day. The Lord won’t give us the answers to the problems of our lives in one singular event, and thank goodness. If He did, I think that it would lead to a sure failure.

Instead, we receive direction a bit at a time.

Here’s another analogy. A few years ago, I was taking my brother to the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia. My brother lived in Pennsylvania, so I can’t say that I knew the way to go. My brother plugged in the address to Elijay, Georgia – where we would stay before he started the hike. And you know how it goes…after he put in the address, his phone quickly announced every single step that we would take in less than a minute. The directions disappeared, and we had every step, every turn, every merge, every intersection, every highway committed to memory.

Hahahah! Of course that’s not how it happened. Instead, his phone said, “Turn right on Glenside Rd.” (which is the first road out of our neighborhood, so fairly obvious and familiar with us). A minute later we did turn right onto Glenside. We stayed on Glenside, and then the GPS on the phone warned, “In .4 miles, turn left onto PA State Route 322.” And then, wouldn’t you know, in .4 miles, we turned left. This continued for the next 12 hours until we “arrived at our final destination.”

We needed to diligently listen to the advice given on the GPS. If we had turned it off after the first or second step – complaining, Why didn’t our GPS get us to our destination?! It would have been silly! It was getting us there – step by step, line upon line. The Lord works in a similar way.

Heed

robin

Finally, Nephi explains that they gave heed to what the Liahona directed them to do. This critical step keeps standing out to me.

So often in life, I’m guilty of not giving heed. I will read the scriptures, I’ll know what I need to do, I’ll even intend to do it, and then – for some reason (usually distraction), I don’t get around to doing it.

The Liahona could have given the most specific and beautiful instructions to the promised land and still have been completely pointless – if Lehi hadn’t followed the instructions.

To go with the analogy above – if I heeded some of the instructions on my route from PA to Ellijay, GA but not others, then I wouldn’t have made it to my destination. I had to follow the instructions. I had to complete each step.

Heed is a demonstration of our faith. Do we believe the pointers on the Liahona, then we will follow them. Do we believe what we learn in the scriptures? Then we will follow them. Do we really believe what God has instructed us in Priesthood blessings? Then we will do what we have been instructed to do.

***

I say this, and I understand how hard it can be. I have a personality (annoying at times) that doesn’t particularly like being told what to do. It is kind of strange. I remember receiving a blessing and in it I was praised for keeping a journal. I was also advised to continue doing so. And I didn’t write in my journal again for months. I didn’t doubt the direction. In fact, I kept intending to do it. I kind of thought It was a jinx! If it hadn’t been mentioned in my blessing, I would have kept on doing it!

Of course, it wasn’t God’s fault that I stopped writing in my journal. It was my fault. I sought direction. Heavenly Father gave me direction. And yet, I didn’t give heed. Thankfully, Heavenly Father is a patient and loving God. He understands each of us. He helps us to “recalibrate” and “recalculate” our path when we diverge from the directions He has given us.

But it is so much easier to simply give heed from the beginning.

I suppose that this is standing out to me because it is what I find most difficult. Interestingly enough, when I discover something on my own – during scripture study, prayer, or through a spiritual prompting – I usually have an easier time doing it. Then, when I receive it through a directive, it feels a little bit stifling and I kind of clam up and have a much harder time doing what I must do. It feels like a Herculean task – even if it is something I was already doing.

The Lord is trying to teach me to keep heeding Him. I can trust Him. I also don’t need to feel that this is some kind of stifling suppression of my agency and identity. Instead, I can trust that above all He knows me, and if I trust Him, if I do what He prompts, then I will find fulfillment that goes above and beyond what I would have done for myself.

***

Time to wrap this up.

I’m grateful for the example of the Liahona in the Book of Mormon. Even though I don’t have some cool, newfangled ball of curious workmanship, I do have other “instruments” in my life that can act as a Liahona. We have the scriptures, we have Patriarchal and Priesthood Blessings. I have the gift of the Holy Ghost and access to promptings and direction. And if we apply those ways that caused Lehi’s Liahona to work into our own lives, then our own personal “liahonas” will also give us direction and comfort.

Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments Revisited – 1 Nephi 16:7-8

You can read 1 Nephi 16:7-8 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi, his brothers, and Zoram marry the daughters of Ishmael.
  • Lehi had kept all of the commandments that had been given him. Nephi was also greatly blessed.

Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments

I wrote about this a little while ago here. It is a concept that is still really on my mind.

Lehi and Nephi kept God’s commandments.

The commandments that Lehi had kept were both general commandments (covenants and the ten commandments and such) and also personal commandments – like bearing testimony to the Jews, fleeing Jerusalem, getting the plates, and getting Ishmael and his family.

Having his sons marry the daughters of Ishmael was another personal commandment that Lehi had kept.

Lehi, though still in the wilderness, could confidently go to the Lord for help and instruction – he was keeping the commandments. I imagine that there could have been room for temptation. So often, I know that I’m VERY MUCH prone to this, we keep a commandment and then expect good consequences – immediately (or almost immediately).

For example, if I had been Lehi, I think I would have fled from Jerusalem and then figured that I’d reach the promised land within a few months. Hahaha! It took them eight years to finally arrive at the promised land!

I would have been tempted to look around me – after several months and think, Okay…any day now…I’d really like to be in that promised land…I’ve kept the commandments, so the Lord is bound to bless me…any day now…

Maybe I wouldn’t have been that bratty about it. But still – I know that I would have been relatively impatient. Or I would have expected the blessings to come from my sacrifices and obedience earlier. Earlier than eight years, anyway.

But that’s not faith.

Instead, we can learn from Lehi’s and Nephi’s examples. They were confident in their righteousness. They kept the commandments. They recognized the blessings of the Lord – even if those blessings did not yet include arrival to the promised land. They didn’t doubt that blessing would come. They simply trusted in God – that each challenge was a step closer to the blessings that the Lord promised to fulfill.

flower in sedona

We each face challenges in our lives that will try our faith. These challenges come to us in many ways – but what they have in common: we have the choice to trust in God. We have the choice to keep His commandments. And we have the choice to notice God’s blessings in our lives.

Nephi stated:

“…And also, I, Nephi, had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly.” – 1 Nephi 16:7-8

Nephi recognized his blessings of the Lord while he still suffered afflictions in the wilderness. I suppose that recognizing these blessings will help us to navigate the wilderness of our lives better.

One last thing…maybe Nephi also had a better perspective than I do sometimes. I sit here and think Wow. Nephi was able to be grateful and praise God – even in the wilderness of his affliction. But maybe I’m forgetting something. Maybe Nephi didn’t see the wilderness of his affliction as a terrible thing. Maybe Nephi did a better job remembering that the wilderness of his affliction was the route to the promised land! Though it was wilderness and full of affliction, it was the path to blessings! It was a blessing! Without that wilderness, there would be no promised land.

Put another way – let’s imagine that the blessing, the promised land, is the top of the mountain.

Mountain Tops

The mountain tops are beautiful, and the Lord will direct us to them, but there is only one way to get there – up.

Often, we are eager to be the top of the mountain, then after the initial novelty of the trail to the top wears off, we start to curse the very trail that will take us to the mountain top!

Nephi understood that the wilderness of his affliction wasn’t some kind of personal vendetta that God had against him and his family. In fact, it was just the opposite. The wilderness of affliction was the path to the promised land. It was a blessing. This wilderness, these challenges, came as a direct consequence of keeping the commandments. And, even though they were difficult, they were propelling him forward – closer to the promised land.

So – if we are keeping the commandments – and we are still in the wilderness of our own afflictions, we can take confidence. We are on the path that will lead to the promised land, to the mountain top view. We can be confident that the Lord will continue to guide us. We can be confident that He will strengthen us no matter what we face next. When we keep the commandments, we can be confident and happy – even long before we reach our final goal.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Look! And I Looked – 1 Nephi 11:8-23

You can read 1 Nephi 11:8-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • According to Nephi’s desire and faith, the Spirit begins to show Nephi the things that Lehi saw in a dream.
  • Nephi sees the tree his father saw – it exceeds all beauty.
  • After seeing the tree, the Spirit tells Nephi that it is most precious above all. The Spirit then asks Nephi, “What desirest thou?”
  • Nephi wants to know the interpretation of this tree.
  • Nephi spoke to the Spirit as a man speaks to another man. The Spirit was in the form of a man, but Nephi knew it wasn’t actually a man.
  • The Spirit answers Nephi by telling him to Look!
  • Nephi saw Jerusalem, Nazareth, and a virgin.
  • The Spirit asks Nephi if he knows the condescension of God, but Nephi doesn’t.
  • The Spirit explains that the virgin that Nephi sees is the mother of the Son of God. She was carried away in the Spirit, then the Spirit told Nephi: Look!
  • Nephi looked and saw the virgin bearing a child in her arms – the Son of God.
  • Through this, Nephi begins to understand the meaning of the tree- the love of God – it is the most desirable above all things and the most joyous to the soul.
image-44
Amazing what you’ll see when you stop to look.

Look! And I Looked..

We are still studying the same section I know, but I really like the concept of looking and I wanted to study it further…

So I’m going to repeat a few things from before, but not everything will be the same, I promise. If you feel like you are reading the same post from before, continue on – it’s different.

For the past couple of posts, we’ve studied Nephi’s desire. He wanted to know the the things his father had seen. This is how chapter 11 opens. Now, the After a little back and forth, the Spirit rejoices – Nephi has the desire and faith in order for Nephi to learn more about this dream. The Lord will grant according to Nephi’s desires.

So then, what we read next looks like this, right? (Spoiler alert, this is NOT how it goes).

The Spirit pulls down a giant blackboard, dons a pair of glasses and writes at the top of the Blackboard: Lehi’s Dream. “Get your plates and etching tool out, Nephi. You’re gonna need to take notes.”

Then he continues, “First all – the tree. It symbolizes the love of God. Okay? Get it? Let me know when you’re done writing…”

If you’ve read the text, then you know that there is no blackboard, no glasses, no list of meanings.

The Spirit doesn’t just show Nephi the dream and tells him what it means. Instead, the Spirit commands: Look!

And Nephi looks.

This is kind of fascinating to me. Look! The command, “Look!” appears at least 12 times throughout the vision that Nephi sees. (There are other similar commands, too – like Behold…but I didn’t count the “beholds.”) Instead of answering Nephi’s question outright, the Spirit bids him to look.

So, in other words, instead of answering Nephi’s question with information, the Spirit answers Nephi with an experience that requires work on Nephi’s part.

After “looking” the first time, the Spirit asks Nephi again what desirest thou? Nephi answered that he wanted – not only to see what his father saw, but to understand the interpretation of that tree.

How does the Spirit answer?

“And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.” – 1 Nephi 11:12

Over and over again, the Spirit says to Nephi: Look!

And Nephi looks.

What can we learn from this?

One – The Teacher

What really stands out to me is that this is how the Lord chose to teach Nephi. He doesn’t tell Nephi. Instead, the Lord invites Nephi to have an experience.

As a mother, am I just telling my children? Lecturing them? And then expecting them to learn this way? Or am I inviting them to have an experience – with the Spirit that will help them to know what they need to know? I can’t force my children to look, but I can force them not to look by keeping them from the opportunity in the first place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about persuasion lately, and I actually think that this is one of the keys of persuasion – letting the person “look” for themselves. We can learn from this experience, too. Nephi is high up on a mountain. He is in a safe environment. The Lord is letting him “look” and experience these teachings in a relative risk-free place.

Part of this, of course, is because the place needs to be holy in order for the Lord’s spirit to dwell there. But I also think that there is something we can learn about this as parents.

While our children are still in the safety of home, we can let them have their own experiences where they have to “look” instead of endure lectures. Then, we can help to guide them – just as the Spirit guided Nephi – as they learn for themselves.

Two – Accountability

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Spirit asking Nephi “What desirest thou?”. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Spirit, instead of answering Nephi directly, giving the answer of “look!” Yes, Nephi’s question is answered, but it requires much more work and submission on Nephi’s part.

I also feel fairly confident that the Lord knew exactly what Nephi wanted.

But I think that the Spirit asks Nephi “What desirest thou?” and then requires work of Nephi by telling him to Look! Because what Nephi sees is a big deal. The Lord can’t force this on Him. The Lord can’t just “show” Him. Nephi can’t be passive. If he is to see and understand all of what the Lord will show, then it absolutely must be based on Nephi’s agency and his tenacity to keep looking.

Even before Nephi sees the vision, the Spirit tells Nephi:

“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

This isn’t just a fun dream for Nephi. The Lord isn’t answering him just to satisfy his curiosity. Nephi will be a witness of Christ, and then after that, Nephi will be expected to bear a special witness of Christ.

The command to “Look!” is required because the information he receives is so sensitive. If Nephi isn’t willing to do the work for this desire, then the Lord can’t give it. It would be unfair – to Nephi!

I mean think about it – if Nephi was to treat this vision and revelation lightly, he might have been treading on the line of perdition. The Lord wouldn’t set Nephi, you, or me up for that kind of problem. But that is what’s on the line for any blessing, really. Satan is always going to try to destroy us. We need to remember the warning that the Savior gave to Peter:

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” – Luke 22:31

If the Lord is too liberal with His prophecies, revelations, blessings, then He knows He might be setting us up for massive failure.

To Peter, the Savior continues:

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” – Luke 22:32

The Vision that Nephi sees – the interpretation of the Vision, as well – is a vision that will give Nephi a special witness of Christ. It is powerful. Depending on how Nephi chooses to use this powerful experience, it will either propel him closer to God and make him a mighty prophet, or it will destroy him.

I know that Heavenly Father understood this. In a way, each utterance, “What desirest thou?” and each command, “Look!” is another time for Nephi to exercise his agency. The Lord will not force this amazing blessing on Nephi. Yes, the Lord wants us to know Him – He wants each of us to develop testimony like this. He delights in blessing us with all of His greatest blessings.

But He will not force them on us.

Not only that, but the Lord is merciful. He knows that if there is a blessing that He’s willing to bestow on us, but that it comes with a lot of responsibility, then He gives us many opportunities to really understand and make the choice to receive the blessing.

Nephi had many choices, and each time he faithfully chose to Look! He faithfully chose the Lord, and I think that this is what makes Nephi Nephi! This is how his testimony develops. This is the game-changer. Nephi was part of the “game changer” moment. He chose the Lord when he chose to look.

What are We Doing?

I want to bring in what I’ve been learning in the last few blog posts – desire and now looking. When we express our desires to the Lord, I think that He gives each of us the opportunities we need to receive. Are we taking those opportunities?

Just like the vision that Nephi’s having, sometimes these opportunities happen in real time. The Lord teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept – which means we might have to “look” again and again and again until we receive according to our desires. (By the way, we’re assuming that these desires are righteous and in line with the will of God).

When Nephi told the Spirit that his desire was to know the interpretation of the tree that his father saw, the Spirit responded with: Look!

Nephi looked. The Spirit was gone completely, and then Nephi saw:

  • Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other great cities.
  • A beautiful virgin

The Spirit interrupted and asked Nephi what he saw. Nephi told the Spirit, and then the Spirit asked:

“…Knowest thou the condescensionof God?” – 1 Nephi 11:16

Nephi admits that he doesn’t know the condescension of God. The Spirit tells Nephi that the virgin was the Savior’s mother. Then Nephi was back to looking/beholding without the Spirit telling or explaining. Now he sees:

  • A virgin bearing a child in her arms.

The Spirit stops again, and then bears witness of that child saying:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” – 1 Nephi 11:21

I’m not sure how Nephi really began to understand this – other than through the experience of looking, He was feeling the Spirit, too. But Nephi answers:

“And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:22

He gets it! He is beginning to understand exactly what his father saw.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and we don’t really need to understand those ways to know that he works. When we understand that, then we will be like Nephi – willing to “look.”

It is worth noting that Nephi’s “looking” isn’t just a passive stare. He is looking, listening, feeling, and learning. The Spirit is working with His Spirit – so that he is able to discover what his father’s dream meant – rather than simply be told.

In our own lives, we shouldn’t be passive either. We need to heed the promptings of the Spirit with exactness and with real intent. It is then that we will learn and receive what we desire.

Thanks for looking at looking with me today.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Sacrifice is Hard, but Nothing is too Hard for the Lord – 1 Nephi 3:1-7

Context and General Information

  • After his experience with the Lord, Nephi goes to his father’s tent.
  • Lehi tells Nephi of a dream that he had – that he needs to send his sons to Jerusalem to get the Plates of Brass from Laban.
  • The Plates of Brass have the genealogy of Lehi’s family and the commandments of the Lord.
  • Laman and Lemuel murmur.
  • Nephi trusts that he will be able to do as the Lord commanded.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam go down to Jerusalem. They cast lots to see who will approach Laban for the Brass Plates.
  • Laman is chosen to ask. He goes to Laban to ask for the plates, and his life is threatened by Laban. Laman fled to his brothers in safety.

Sometimes Sacrifice is Hard

When Lehi tells Nephi that the Lord has commanded them to go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, Lehi shares his brothers’ feeling about the assignment:

“And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.” –1 Nephi 3:5

I think that it is important to understand this situation as well as we can:

Several nights before, during the night Lehi had a dream and was told to take his family and leave Jerusalem. He obeyed. Lehi packed up his family and only a few provisions. They seemed to have lived a good, abundant life in Jerusalem, and now they are leaving the safety of the city and venturing into a hot and dangerous desert.

As far as I can tell, the only person who received the message – that the family needed to flee Jerusalem – was Lehi. This vision doesn’t come to Sariah or any of the children. In fact, it isn’t until they have journeyed for days that they even stop to set up a camp. There, Nephi goes to the Lord. Nephi receives his own witness that this is truly a commandment from God, but Laman and Lemuel don’t know, and thy continue to murmur.

We need to understand the situation: the terrain is difficult and dangerous. Sometimes we think of wilderness as something that looks like this:

008 Woods at Huber Grove
This seems wild, but it is probably not an accurate idea of “the wilderness.”

Instead, what Lehi and his family experienced was something that looked a little bit more like this:

007 Wilderness
This doesn’t look like a fun family camping trip.

When we do our best to put ourselves there – in the heat, little water, little shade, etc. It gets a lot easier to see why Laman and Lemuel murmured. In fact, the more I try to think of the conditions of Lehi’s flight from Jerusalem, it is harder to imagine why Nephi didn’t murmur!

This is not an easy sacrifice! This is no promised land. Now that Lehi has escaped Jerusalem, he is being told to send his sons back to get the plates of Brass. It could be a temptation – to give up and go back. But Lehi remains faithful.

The thing that is really impressed on my mind is what Laman and Lemuel said “It is a hard thing…” Lehi doesn’t deny that it is a hard thing. But he says that he didn’t command it, God did.

Lehi doesn’t try to gloss over the challenging nature of this sacrifice. Instead, he reminds Laman and Lemuel that the sacrifice and command came from God.

It’s good for me to remember – sometimes sacrifice is hard! Sometimes we are asked to do hard things. But we can remember that it came from God.

Nothing is Too Hard

Even though we might be asked to do things or make sacrifices that are hard, we can remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

This, of course, requires a basic understanding of our God (which basic knowledge is the antidote to murmuring).

We then read Nephi’s classic, famous response:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. ” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Nephi isn’t being a goody-two-shoes here. This isn’t some kind of positivity practice or hopeful thinking. Nephi knows that he can trust God.

Nephi knows that our Heavenly Father isn’t Lucy. (from Charlie Brown!) Heavenly Father won’t set us up to kick the ball, then take it away at the last second, leaving us flat on our backs.

Heavenly Father didn’t command Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem just as some kind of arbitrary test to see if they would be faithful. The Lord isn’t power hungry or bored. The Lord knows what Lehi and his family will need in order for them to successfully set up their own civilization. The Lord knows that Lehi and his family needs the Plates of Brass, so the Lord will help them to do it.

We can also trust the Lord. We can remember that he isn’t Lucy. He isn’t entertained by our efforts, failures, difficulties or trials. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be happy.

So he gives us commandments – which will bring us more joy and closer to the true goal of our lives.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Lehi’s Obedience and Why Some People Murmur – 1 Nephi 2:1-15

Context and General Information

  • The Lord spoke to Lehi in a dream and commanded him to flee Jerusalem – his life is in danger.
  • Lehi obeyed.
  • Lehi left all that he owned – his house, his riches, and precious things. The only things that Lehi took were his family and essential provisions like tents.
  • After three days flight, Lehi pitched his tent in the wilderness and gave thanks. He was trying to get out of Jerusalem fast!
  • Lehi pled with his two oldest sons – Laman and Lemuel – because they murmured against their father and his decision to leave Jerusalem to go to the desert wilderness.
  • Lehi dwelt in a tent.
006 Flight from Jerusalem
Flight from Jerusalem

Lehi’s Obedience

The Lord commands:

“For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.”

“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:1-2

Notice the things that the Lord impresses upon Lehi:

  • Lehi was blessed! He had been faithful and he had kept the commandment of the Lord – the personal commandment to prophesy and share what he had seen earlier. He kept this commandment despite the negative consequences that followed…more on that in a moment.
  • Lehi was warned. The people wanted to take away the life of Lehi.
  • The Lord commanded Lehi to take his family and depart in the wilderness.

Notice that – the Lord commanded Lehi.

What does that actually mean? Does this mean that Lehi had no option? What does it mean that Lehi was commanded by God to depart Jerusalem?

When we think of the commandments of God, I think that we typically think of the 10 commandments. Maybe we also even think of the higher law and think of the two commandments – to Love God and to love one another.

So, if someone says, “Keep the commandments,” usually we think of those formal commandments.

However, I think that there is more than just the formal commandments that we are expected to keep. We are also given personal commandments – from God.

Commandment has such a negative connotation sometimes. I’m thinking of a scripture that might give a little bit of positive insight:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” – Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21

The Lord knows the laws upon which blessings are predicated. The Lord, for example, knows that in order for him to be able to bless Lehi with safety, peace, and a promised land, then Lehi will have to leave Jerusalem. The Lord understands this, so he gives Lehi a personal commandment so that Lehi can then make the choice that will result in a magnificent blessing.

Another scripture that can help us understand the beauty of personal commandments:

” I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” – Doctrine and Covenants 82:10

The Lord cannot give us promised blessings if He doesn’t first “say” the commandment that we need to keep.

Lehi was not forced to leave Jerusalem. I don’t think that the Lord would have “cut off” Lehi if Lehi had chosen to say. However, the Lord wouldn’t be able to promise protection either. Lehi had agency. We see how Lehi responds:

“And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.” – 1 Nephi 2:3

Lehi chose to trust the Lord, follow this personal commandment, and live worthy of the blessings that would come to him and his family.

Obedience Brings Blessings…Eventually

Lehi made the decision to leave Jerusalem and it was a pretty dramatic and fast move. We read:

“And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:4

Not only did Lehi leave Jerusalem, but he left in a hurry. He did not postpone this prompting. He acted quickly and obeyed exactly. He made a huge sacrifice – to go into the wilderness without any of his riches or comforts.

The wilderness. That sounds kind of cool. Maybe I should start calling it the “desert wilderness” because this wasn’t just some kind of fun extended camping trip that Lehi and his family took.

***
Earlier, I mentioned that Lehi kept the commandment to preach to the people of Jerusalem, despite the negative consequences that follow.

How does this align with what we read in the Doctrine and Covenants? Lehi keeps the commandments, then is mocked, jeered, and threatened? Lehi kept the Lord’s commandment, isn’t he bound to now bless Lehi?

Of course, blessings do come from keeping the commandments, but they don’t always come immediately.

The “delayed blessing effect” happens again.

Lehi departs into the wilderness. They flee for three days. Then he pitches a tent.

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” – 1 Nephi 2:15

Lehi lived in Jerusalem with riches and comfort. Now he’s living in a tent in a dangerous desert wilderness. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that Lehi will not arrive to the promise land for eight years.

It could be really easy to doubt the Lord and doubt the personal commandments that he gives us when they don’t yield immediate positive results. It could have been easy for Lehi to wonder, “Was I crazy? Did I just displace my entire family because of what I heard in a dream?!” It could be easy for him to say, “Was that the Lord, or was it just me?”

However, Lehi didn’t doubt. He remained optimistic and grateful. He hadn’t inherited any of the promised blessings for keeping the commandments of God. In fact, the only result at this point to keeping God’s commandments had been sacrifices. But he made them faithfully.

How Do We Continue to Obey without Doubting?

In 1 Nephi 2, we meet two of Lehi’s sons – Laman and Lemuel. This is what we read about them:

“Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.” – 1 Nephi 2:11

Laman and Lemuel didn’t understand why they were leaving their gold, silver, and precious things. God had told Lehi to flee Jerusalem so that he and his family could escape death. But Laman and Lemuel felt that they left their land of inheritance “to perish in the wilderness.”

They felt that his father was foolish – that the commandment from God was simply one of the “imaginations of his heart.”

We often criticize Laman and Lemuel, but I don’t think that’s helpful. Instead we can learn from them. Why was Lehi so quick to obey – despite a mountain of negative consequences from his obedience? Why did Laman and Lemuel think he was crazy.

Nephi wrote:

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

Laman and Lemuel murmured because they didn’t know their God.

Lehi, on the other hand knew God. He knew the voice of the Lord. He knew what the promptings of the Spirit were. He knew how crucial it was for him to obey these personal commandments. He had no doubt in the Lord – despite the difficulties that he faced – because he knew who the Lord was.

We can approach life and personal commandments the same way. We can seek to know our God so that when He commands, we obey without murmuring.