The Psalm of Nephi (Part 6/6) – Nephi Petitions the Lord – 2 Nephi 4:31-35

You can read 2 Nephi 4:26-30 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • 2 Nephi 4:15-35 comprises what is commonly referred to as The Psalm of Nephi.
  • Nephi feels sorrow because he has allowed sin into his heart.
  • Nephi remembers and praises the Lord.
  • Nephi forsakes his sin.
  • Nephi resolves to do better.
  • Nephi petitions the Lord.

Nephi Petitions the Lord

This is the sixth and final part of the study of the Psalm of Nephi. You can read:

Before we start this post—a quick recap. First, Nephi grieved as he recognized his sin and the subsequent loss of the Spirit. Nephi’s sorrowing was poignant and genuine, but he didn’t allow himself to wallow in it. Instead, he stated: Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. After making this mental shift – he began to rejoice in the Lord. His rejoicing led him to ask him a few questions that help to buoy him up and motivate him back to righteousness. These questions then cause Nephi to increase his resolve and dedication to righteousness.

Finally, today, we will study Nephi’s petitions and promises to the Lord.

Nephi’s requests

We read:

“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?”

May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. – 2 Nephi 4:31-33

So, here is a quick list of Nephi’s requests:

  • Wilt thou redeem my soul? – Nephi seeks repentance for his sins. I don’t think this is only some far of request. I kind of think he wants to be forgiven as he asks so that he can again have the companionship of the Lord’s Spirit.
  • Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? – Who are Nephi’s enemies – Satan, and in this instance, I think his brothers. It is kind of sad, but at the same time it’s just the truth. Nephi’s enemies (brothers!) have sought his life over and over again.
  • Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? – This is another “enemy” that Nephi wants to overcome—his natural reaction to sin. He wants to quash the natural man and become a saint by yielding to the Spirit, so he asks God for help.
  • May the gates of hell be shut continually before me – now Nephi doesn’t expect this to just “happen.” He understands that he needs a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
  • Wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me – Nephi desires to tread on the Lord’s path. He has sought throughout his life to do as the Lord instructs. He wants to continue in this manner.
  • Wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness – Again, Nephi is pleading for added strength from the Lord.
  • Wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! – More pleading for support.
  • Wilt thou make my path straight before me! – Sometimes the path is hard to find and hard to navigate. Nephi asks for aid. He wants to walk the Lord’s path.
  • Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way, but clear my way before me – Nephi pleads for assistance.

These are interesting questions. It might be nice to ponder each of them individually one day, but I don’t really have the time to do that right now. However, this part is really standing out to me:

“…Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.” – 2 Nephi 4:33

I am really feeling this question right now. Sometimes the faithful path seems so difficult – that it is littered with stumbling blocks and obstacles. I understand that these obstacles are part of the path, but it can be hard! I know that these obstacles need to be overcome, but sometimes they hurt us.

I remember going on a hike a few years ago in the woods in Massachusetts. I had lived in Utah prior to living in Massachusetts. Hiking in Utah – at a high altitude and with a lot of elevation gain in hikes – was much harder. Yet one day, on a leisurely hike in Massachusetts, I stumbled on a rock and sprained my ankle.

This rock was in my path. I needed to walk over it, yet it was my downfall.

I understand Nephi’s prayer – that the stumbling blocks be cleared from our path so that our ways are not hedged up.

This concept is really hitting close to home right now. I’ve shared in blog posts before that I’ve been having some troubles with my heart – or at least I think it is my heart.

I’ve had a lot of things that are like stumbling blocks that seem to be “hedging up my path.” And it is a temptation for me to let these things fracture my faith. There are times when I have prayed that this path would simply be easier, rather than littered with “ankle biter” stones.

But the path remains rocky, and I’m reminded of the quote by Marcus Aurelius:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

There are times when are path is going to be rocky. That’s just the way that life is. We can pray that the Lord will clear our paths, but it’s important to understand that the Lord’s “clearing of our paths” rarely means that He will miraculously move these stones and make our walk easier.

Sometimes it means that we will find a path around the obstacle.

Sometimes it means that the Lord will teach us how to remove the obstacle ourselves.

And other times, the “clearing of our path” is a new set of eyes – so we can see that the obstacles that hinder our paths are not stumbling blocks, but stepping stones.

And though we may stumble along our path, we can rest assured, just as Nephi did. He closes his psalm/prayer with the most powerful testimony:

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” – 2 Nephi 4:34-35

sunny phoenix february day

As we walk in our paths of life, we can follow Nephi’s example. We can ask God for help and be open to the answers that He gives. When we ask in faith (and not amiss), He will hear our humble and heartfelt petitions. He will help to clear our paths, or to give us the strength and wisdom to negotiate them.

We can take courage as we remember the God in whom we have trusted. God is our Father. He loves us. He delights in blessings us with his greatest blessings. His glory and His purpose is our eternal life and salvation; His joy is our success. We have no need to fear the trials and difficulties of our lives. As long as we always remember Him and trust in Him, He will be our guide, our rock, our path, and our salvation.

The Psalm of Nephi (Part 5/6) – Nephi’s Resolve – 2 Nephi 4:28-30

You can read 2 Nephi 4:26-30 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • 2 Nephi 4:15-35 comprises what is commonly referred to as The Psalm of Nephi.
  • Nephi feels sorrow because he has allowed sin into his heart.
  • Nephi remembers and praises the Lord.
  • Nephi forsakes his sin.
  • Nephi resolves to do better.
  • Nephi petitions the Lord.

Nephi’s Resolve

This is the fifth part of the study of the Psalm of Nephi. You can read:

Before we start this post—a quick recap. First, Nephi grieved as he recognized his sin and the subsequent loss of the Spirit. Nephi’s sorrowing was poignant and genuine, but he didn’t allow himself to wallow in it. Instead, he stated: Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. After making this mental shift – he began to rejoice in the Lord. His rejoicing led him to ask him a few questions that help to buoy him up and motivate him back to righteousness.

Today, we will study what comes next – Nephi’s resolve.

In 2 Nephi, we read:

“Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” – 2 Nephi 4:28-30

Now that Nephi has dug himself out of the hole of pity caused by sin, and after rejoicing in the Lord, he has a renewed sense of commitment. He has hope and resolve.

I think that this is a really important part of the Psalm of Nephi. When we think of repentance and the process of confessing and forsaking sin, for some reason it always sounds so sad to me. I think that there is some part of me that thinks true repentance is only a small step off of that part of the self flagellation we see in the movie The Davinci Code committed by that Opus Dei priest.

I have never purposely hurt or cut myself – to pay a penance or feel sorrow for my sins. But there is a part of me, I must admit, that misunderstands the nature of the Atonement. There is a part of me that thinks repentance should be grueling. There is a part of me that thinks I need to suffer, suffer, and suffer if I’m truly sorry for my sin.

There is a part of me that focuses only on the “Oh wretched man that I am,” part of Nephi’s psalm, while ignoring the following 18 verses of rejoicing, recommitting, and hope.

I know that I already touched on this concept in an earlier blog post, but I feel it is important to bring it up quickly again.

Repentance shouldn’t end in sorrow or pain. When we truly repent, we should feel reinvigorated, hopeful, and excited about recommitment.

Think of Alma the younger’s experience with repentance and conversion. He saw an angel while he was out persecuting the members of the church. He then was in a comatose state for three days. We read of his experience:

“But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.

And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.” – Alma 36:12-16

Alma experienced great sorrow. But notice what he says. He was experiencing the pains “of a damned soul.”

And the thing is, we aren’t damned. We don’t have to experience this kind of hopeless grief caused by our sin. We don’t have to be tormented. Yes we sin. And yes, this is how we feel when we are left alone with our sins. But the thing is: we haven’t been left alone.

We have been forgiven.

The Savior, Himself, stated:

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19

We have been forgiven! Is suffering connected to sin? Absolutely! The Savior described his experience in suffering for sin. It was so painful it caused him God to tremble.

But do we have to “suffer” in order to be forgiven? No! At least, not necessarily. This is why Christ suffered. So that instead, we could repent.

The suffering that Alma felt was the sorrow of a damned soul. It was not godly sorrow that led to repentance. His sorrow was hopeless torment. He wished to be “banished and … extinct both soul and body….” Thankfully for him, he had been taught about the hope offered by Christ. He continues with his experience:

“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” – Alma 36:17-21

Now look at this!!! Alma, when he thinks of the Savior and then chooses to express Godly sorrow, he repents. He stops with the self hatred. He is filled with the pure love of Christ. He experiences exquisite joy.

orchid tree

Back to Nephi.

He doesn’t wallow in self-pity. And now, after changing his focus and rejoicing in God, he recommits.

Nephi’s resolve:

  • Awake!
  • Don’t droop in sin – don’t get discouraged.
  • Rejoice in the Lord.
  • Don’t give the enemy a place in our hearts.
  • Don’t anger because of enemies.
  • Don’t let strength slacken during adversity.
  • Rejoice in the Lord!
  • Praise the Lord! He is the rock of our salvation.

mountain in ut

I’m so thankful for Nephi’s example. I know that I need to follow this example in my own life. When I’m feeling down and out – whether it’s through sin or through some adversity, I need to do what Nephi has done: remember the Lord, rejoice in Him, and then recommit.

Praising God in the Storm – 1 Nephi 18:12-16

You can read 1 Nephi 18:12-16 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After being bound, the Liahona stopped working, and Laman and Lemuel didn’t know where to steer the ship.
  • A great storm arose – really terrible tempest – and Nephi and his family were driven back on the waters for three days.
  • Though the storm was terrible and Laman and Lemuel began to fear, they still didn’t loose Nephi.
  • On the fourth day, the tempest became especially terrible.
  • When they were about to be swallowed up by the depths of the sea – being driven back by the storm for four days – Laman and Lemuel were finally scared enough to repent of their iniquities and untie Nephi.
  • Though Nephi was swollen and pretty hurt from the whole ordeal, he didn’t murmur. He looked to and praised his God.

Praising God in the Storm

In 1 Nephi 18, we read of Lehi’s family’s experience traveling on the ship toward the promised land.

Let me back up for a second. In 1 Nephi 17, Nephi convinced Laman and Lemuel (through the power of God) to help him build a boat. They did, and they seemed to be genuinely humbled.

nephi-building-ship-jerry-thompson-1133016-gallery
Building the Ship, Jerry Thompson

At the beginning of 1 Nephi 18, we read that they finished the ship. This experience was humbling for each of them. We read:

“And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.” – 1 Nephi 18:4

Things are going well! Laman and Lemuel have stayed faithful enough to see through to the completion of the ship! Not only that, but we continue to read in 1 Nephi 18, that they all gather seeds and supplies. They board the ship. And then they set sail for the promised land. In fact, they are driven forth for “many days” without any incident or problems.

Smooth sailing – both literally and metaphorically.

But only for a moment.

Laman and Lemuel get naughty. Nephi is constrained to correct them. Laman and Lemuel refuse to remember any of the miracles or humility that they have experienced prior to this situation. And then, on the open ocean they decide to rebel against God and tie Nephi up.

This time, the Lord didn’t strengthen Nephi. He didn’t loose the bands. He didn’t shock Laman and Lemuel. This time, the Lord suffered that Nephi should remain bound as He caused a huge storm to come up and threaten the lives of every person aboard the ship.

This sounds pretty terrible. In fact, Nephi describes his physical situation:

“…and behold [my wrists] had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof.” – 1 Nephi 18:15

His situation really doesn’t sound fun.

It was only because of the imminent threat of destruction that Laman and Lemuel untied Nephi, and then we read what Nephi did:

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

I think that this scripture is what adds to the mythical stature of Nephi. He didn’t murmur or complain. Pretty amazing. In fact, so amazing it seems nearly impossible. Can you imagine being tossed around at sea – nearly to death – and yet praising God.

I mean, really think about it from Nephi’s perspective. This is after 8 years in the wilderness. This is after an initial sacrifice of their worldly comforts in Jerusalem for 8 years in the wilderness. This is after going back to get the plates. This is after going back AGAIN to get Ishmael’s family. This is after breaking his bow and nearly starving to death. This is after experiencing the death of Ishmael. This is after marriages and births. This is after making it to Bountiful and then building a ship.

Now, after all of these sacrifices, these years of hard work, Nephi is bound on the boat, in the ocean, and in a storm so severe it has nearly killed this entire boat – full of Lehi and his family.

Storm at Sea
Storm at Sea, by Marco Ricci

Thankfully, the threat of death was enough to coax Laman and Lemuel into some kind of temporary humility. They untied Nephi. And Nephi doesn’t murmur because of his afflictions! He praises God.

I’m not convinced that Nephi was mythical. I’m actually convinced that Nephi was a regular dude who had been refined by the Lord. And I believe that we can figure out a way to be like Nephi. I wish I knew the exact process that he used in this moment – the mental process or the mindset – to keep him from murmuring. I do have a theory though.

The Psalm of Nephi

In 2 Nephi 4 is recorded one of the most personal and intimate scriptures in the Book of Mormon. This is often referred to as the Psalm of Nephi, and I really believe it is an outline of the process for maintaining composure during trial. I won’t go through it all here because we will study it later, but I will outline the steps. I think that this is probably how Nephi was able to endure without murmuring.

Step One – Recognition and Honesty
In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi cries:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” – 2 Nephi 4:17-18

Admittedly, I don’t know if Nephi, while tied on the ship, was this frustrated with Laman and Lemuel or not. But I can make an assumption. If I were Nephi, I’d be totally frustrated with them! As we already mentioned before – they had gone through SO MUCH! They had suffered so much. 8 years in the wilderness! So many sacrifices and trials. And now, they tied Him up?! Now, they refused to listen to the pleas of their parents, siblings, and others?! Now, Laman’s and Lemuel’s hearts were so hard that they would jeopardize everything and risk being killed at sea?! I can only imagine that Nephi was at least slightly annoyed with his brothers.

We don’t know what Nephi thought while tied up. But I would imagine that at first there was a reaction to his siblings. I’m not sure if he was angry. I don’t know. But we can read from the records that later on (in 2 Nephi), he did get angry with his brothers sometimes.

Though he may have every right to be angry with his brothers, the first thing Nephi does is become honest with himself. He realizes it is a sin to let anger fester in his heart.

I guess, this is a reminder that Nephi is a real person. He has feelings! But he doesn’t allow himself to be ruled by those feelings. His frustration with his brothers turns to frustration with himself. Nephi recognized that he let himself get angry, and that’s a sin. I would not be surprised if something like this happened as he was tied up in the early hours of his bondage on the boat.

Two – Nephi Remembers God
Nephi states:

“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” – 2 Nephi 4:19

Instead of letting himself droop in sin and frustration (no matter how justified he may be), Nephi makes a decision. This phrase: I know in whom I’ve trusted is a turning point. Nephi remembers God.

Nephi has trusted in God, and he can take comfort in this fact. I would imagine that while on the ship, he actively remembered the God whom he had trusted.

Three – Nephi Praises God through Recalling Experiences
After this turning point, Nephi then begins to praise God. I’ve often wondered what it means to “praise God.” I have usually thought of things like hymns and the word “Hallelujah.” Which, of course is a form of praising God.

But here, Nephi praises God by remembering specific instances that He has experienced in his own life:

  • My god hath been my support
  • He hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness
  • He hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep
  • He hath filled me with his love – even unto the consuming of my flesh
  • He hath confounded mine enemies – unto the causing of them to quake before me
  • He hath heard my cry by day
  • He hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time
  • My voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me

Nephi is able to buoy himself up – and His faith – through these specific praises to God. He has taken the time to make note of these experiences (probably writing them in a journal), and he has taken the time to remember them. And now, in these moments of weakness, he is able to use his own testimony to both praise God and to strengthen his own faith.

I can only imagine that while tied up on the ship that Nephi was praying to God. It would seem like God didn’t answer his prayers for four long and rough days. Or, if you look at it another way, God answered Nephi’s prayers by letting the waters get rough enough to compel Laman and Lemuel to humility.

It would be hard to suffer in that situation, but perhaps made easier if Nephi was praising God – by remembering, specifically, the tender mercies and miracles he had experienced up to that point in his life.

Four – Nephi Reasons with Himself
In 2 Nephi 4, after recalling all of these experiences with God, Nephi asks himself a series of questions:

  • Why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow?
  • Why should my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
  • Why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
  • Why should I give way to temptations?
  • Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Remember, Nephi asked these questions in the context of the miracles and tender mercies of God. Nephi asked these questions to himself after declaring I know in whom I’ve trusted.

These questions are rhetorical. And when asked while given in the context of praising God, they are answered: My heart shouldn’t weep. My soul shouldn’t linger in the valley of sorrow – because I have trusted in God…My strength shouldn’t slack because of mine afflictions – God is my strength!…I shouldn’t, because of my flesh, yield to sin, but yield to the Spirit…I shouldn’t give way to temptations – they come from the adversary, not my Lord…I shouldn’t be angry because of mine enemies when I have God as an ally…

Five – Nephi Rejoices and Recommits Himself to the Lord
Now, Nephi is becoming resolved. He declares:

Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” – 2 Nephi 4:29-30

Nephi, though struggling earlier, is recommitting Himself to God. His praise is elevated. He loves the Lord.

Six – Nephi Pleads with God
Now, Nephi’s prayer is becoming more vigorous. He isn’t angry at his brothers. He is repentant and realigning himself with God. And he is pleading with God – for additional strength to endure his trials.

Nephi asks for redemption and deliverance. He asks that he make shake at the appearance of sin. He prays that the gates of hell would be shut before him and the gates of righteousness open. He pleads that the Lord will encircle him with the robe of righteousness. He prays for God’s strength.

Seven – Nephi Praises God Again, and His Faith is Sure
Nephi declares:

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” – 2 Nephi 4:34-35

Through these seven steps, Nephi went from frustration to testifying of the Lord to the Lord!

***

So how did Nephi do it on that ship? I don’t really know. We don’t have any record of his thoughts or feelings as he suffered on the ship – bound – for days. We don’t know what through his head or heart. We just know what happened after he was released. He didn’t murmur because of his afflictions. He praised God all the day long.

I really don’t think that this just happened because Nephi is Nephi. I believe that those four days were a refining process for Nephi. I believe he was sorely tempted, but that he prevailed. I believe that Nephi probably went through some kind of process that turned his heart away from the possible anger, frustration, and fear of the situation – and toward His God – the rock of his righteousness.

And I think that we can do the same. We can remember who we have trusted. We can recall the tender mercies we have experienced in our lives to buoy ourselves up during times of trial. We can recommit to our Lord, our God. We can trust in Him and testify to Him of our love and trust in Him. We can go through this mental exercise so that we will not murmur, but will praise God all the day long – even when in the midst of terrifying afflictions.

Going Down into the Ship – 1 Nephi 18:5-8

You can read 1 Nephi 18:5-8 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • The voice of the Lord came to Lehi and commanded him to board the ship with his family.
  • After preparing everything – fruit and meat from the wilderness (food for their journey!), honey, provisions that the Lord had commanded them to make, seeds, and everything else – Lehi and his family boarded the ship.
  • Lehi had two sons while in the wilderness – Jacob and Joseph.
  • After going down into the ship and getting everything organized, they launched into the sea and were driven by the wind toward the promised land.

Going Down into the Ship

Talk about a moment of truth…

lehi-people-arrive-promised-land-39644-gallery
Okay, so in this picture, they are actually arriving to the Promised Land, but you get the idea.

Can you imagine – building a boat? And then, having to put that boat to the test by putting into the sea? And it needs to work? I mean, not only does it need to work, but it needs to work for long enough to arrive at the promised land???

Would you trust what you have done? Would you step confidently onto that boat?

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a landlubber in the first place.

And then, there is another thing to think about. We read:

“And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land.” – 1 Nephi 18:8

Not only did the boat have to float, but it would be driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. Which means that the wind blew. A breeze is nice, but this had to be a strong wind.

I’m not sure of the conditions of Nephi and his family while on the boat. We read in the next verse that they were driven forth before the wind for a while. I can’t help but think of the Jaredites who also were guided to the promised land by the hand of the Lord. About them, we read:

“And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.

6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.

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

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.” – Ether 6:5-8

Notice what we read about the Jaredite experience here:

  • A furious wind blew upon the face of the waters toward the promised land.
  • They were TOSSED upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
  • They were BURIED in the depths of the sea – because of the waves that were caused by the tempests that were caused the furious winds that were blowing them toward the promised land.
  • Though buried in the water, they were safe. This is because of the proper preparation they made beforehand, and also because of the faithful actions that they took in the moment.
  • The wind never did cease to blow. I suppose it would have been a wearying trip. But it blew them toward the promised land.

This reminds me an awful lot of how life works for each of us. We each embark on our own proverbial journeys to the promised land. We may have been commanded (as Nephi and his family were) to do so. Perhaps we chose to take on this journey – as the Jaredites did. In any case, we often find ourselves on these journeys that are sanctioned and commanded by the Lord.

We might just find ourselves in a predicament like Nephi’s or the Jaredites’ – where we are reliant on a wind to drive us toward the promised land.

It’s Not Easy

Blogging about it, thinking about it…the “fierce wind” doesn’t sound all that bad. It makes logical sense to us. Of course, they had to be driven by a wind. Or even a fierce wind. It’s so easy to be an armchair quarterback in the lives of those we read in the scriptures. It’s easy to assume that it was somehow easier for them. Maybe we do this because when we read the stories we have hindsight.

But I’m thankful for the scriptures and the records because when I take a few minutes to think about it, I realize it wasn’t easy.

And then, the scriptures take on even more meaning when I have opportunity to apply them to my own life. When I feel the fierce winds blowing in my own life – when I’m being buried in the depths of the sea under “mountain waves.” When I begin to wonder what land felt like. When I wonder – was this a good idea? Will I die at sea? Will I make it to my promised land???

I don’t know.

I don’t know what will happen with you or with me. I don’t know if we will arrive at the promised lands that we think we are traveling towards during mortality. But it doesn’t matter. I know that I will keep working. I will keep persevering. I will keep allowing myself to be driven forth. Because I do have faith that all of the earthly things we experience are really the “winds” that drive us toward the real promised land – exaltation and eternal peace with God.

Scripture Power – 1 Nephi 17:23-42

You can read 1 Nephi 17:23-42 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Laman and Lemuel tried to dissuade Nephi from building the boat, Nephi responds to them in faith.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of their ancestors – which records were kept in the scriptures. He talks about how Moses and the children of Israel escaped from Egypt and were delivered to their own promised land.
  • Nephi recounts a few of the miracles that the Lord did to help the children of Israel – parting the Red Sea, leading them by day and giving them light by night, giving them manna, providing water for them in the wilderness, etc. Everything was done according to the word of the Lord.
  • Nephi also reminded Laman and Lemuel that the reason why the Lord let Israel inhabit a land filled with other people is because those people had become wicked. The Lord esteems all flesh in one. He is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t favor a group of people because of their pedigree. He favors those that keep His law. And those who do not keep the commandments cannot be protected by Him.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord created the earth to be inhabited. We have been blessed to be able to possess the earth.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord loves and will covenant with those who will have Him be their God. He covenanted with their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The covenant isn’t just a set of carte-blanche blessings. When the children of Israel hardened their hearts in the wilderness, the Lord straitened them with the rod. He sent fiery flying serpents among them, they were bitten, and he prepared a way for them to be healed. All they had to do was look, but many didn’t—choosing to perish instead.
  • The children of Israel, from time to time, hardened their hearts against God and His prophet, Moses.
  • Despite their rebellion from time to time, the children of Israel were eventually led away from bondage in Egypt and to a land of promise.

Scripture Power

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look up to Nephi. He was faithful, optimistic, and courageous. In fact, there is a song that the children sing: Nephi was courageous.

Nephi's courage
The Lord Commanded Nephi to Go and Build a Boat…

I like Nephi. And I do think that he was courageous. That Nephi was courageous is indisputable. But I do think that sometimes we mythicize Nephi in a way that is unfair to him. I think that sometimes we just call him courageous, and end it there – as if he was magically courageous. As if it came naturally and easy to him. I think this inclination is a bit problematic.

I think that we forget he was a normal dude, and because of the choices he made, he was strengthened. What I mean is – he wasn’t just magically courageous. Through his experiences and through the strength of the Lord, Nephi cultivated courage. He actually made choices and did things that we can also do! We can become courageous like him.

In the children’s song, “Nephi’s Courage,” the the third verse states:

“. The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.” – Bill N. Hansen, “Nephi’s Courage”

I really like this song. We can learn from Nephi. He truly was courageous. And yes, it is simple. We can choose to trust in God. We can choose to be courageous.

That’s the thing…Nephi didn’t know how he would make a boat, but he had full trust in the Lord. This trust in the Lord came from his humility and willingness to pray (we read about that in 1 Nephi 2); it came from his willingness to exercise his faith and put the Lord to the test (and succeeding! – we read about this many times – when he got the plates in 1 Nephi 3 and 4 for starters); his trust in the Lord was cultivated when Nephi took time to notice and remember the tender mercies of the Lord (which he recounts in 1 Nephi 15).

This trust in the Lord is what makes Nephi courageous in the face of trial, danger, and what seems to be “the impossible.”

In 1 Nephi 17, we read of another source of Nephi’s courage and trust in God. He has seen the Lord work in the lives of other people. These experiences inspire Nephi, give him hope, and facilitate his trust in God. They encourage Nephi to believe that the Lord will empower him, as well. The experiences that inspire Nephi were recorded and handed down from generation to generation. They are the scriptures.

The primary children also sing a song called “Scripture Power,” and I can’t help but think of Nephi when I hear the words of this song…specifically the line “scripture power is the power to win!”

Nephi already had the strength and the faith to complete the task that the Lord gave him, I know this. But I really think that the scriptures were a major part of the strength and faith that Nephi had cultivated in his life. And now that his brothers are mocking and questioning his obedience, Nephi uses the scriptures to persuade his brothers that they can obey and they can build a boat.

Nephi reminds Laman and Lemuel of their own ancestors – the children of Israel – and their flight from Egypt. There was nothing logical about this escape. It was miraculous. It was all dependent on their faith and trust in God.

Nephi reminds his brothers that:

  • Moses and the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry ground.
  • The Egyptians followed the Israelites and were drowned in the Red Sea.
  • The children of Israel were fed in the wilderness with manna from heaven.
  • Moses smote the rock and it brought forth water for the Israelites.
  • The Lord led them in a cloud by day and gave them light by night.
  • The Lord punished them and blessed them according to their faith and His word.
  • The children of Israel not only escaped from bondage, but were led to a promised land. The Lord fulfilled His promises.

Though Nephi had never before built a boat, their situation was not unprecedented. The Lord has power to deliver and has delivered, strengthened, and supported his people throughout time. Nephi knew that the Lord was capable of delivering him and his family because He had done it before. Nephi knew that if the Lord could free the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, if the Lord could part the Red Sea, if the Lord could feed them manna from heaven, if the Lord could bring them water from rocks, if the Lord could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness to a promised land, then the Lord could help Nephi build a boat. The Lord could deliver Nephi and his family.

And what is the condition for such deliverance?  Strict obedience to the words of the Lord. If Nephi wanted to be delivered (which I think he did!), then he needed to obey the commandments that the Lord gave him. In this instance, the commandment was to build a boat. So that is what Nephi must do. It may sound insane, but Nephi knows through his own experiences and through the testimonies recorded in the scriptures that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Nephi’s faith and trust in the Lord gives him the courage he needs to get the job done – and to persuade his brothers to help!

***

I love this example. I have needed it in my own life. I can’t even begin to guess how many times the stories of the scriptures have helped me to cultivate the faith I needed to have courage through my own trials. The Lord gives us commandments – both general and very specific, and He wants us to obey. And why does He want us to obey…so He can bless us! So we can be happy!

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend. I had a very distinct impression:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

So often, when we face obstacles in our lives, they may be overcome in more than one way. The Lord will help us to overcome our obstacles, that is the truth. However, I am learning that He doesn’t always do the thing that seems to be the most intuitive to us. Maybe His way takes longer than we would like. His way might cost us more money, more time, or other sacrifices. Often His way requires more faith!

But we must trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding. We must have courage in the face of affliction. We must trust His inspiration when facing and overcoming the obstacles in our lives. Why? Well, because He is interested not only in our immediate successes in life, but also in the big picture. He has a work and a glory – to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

If we will do things His way, then we can rest assured that we will be delivered from the real problem: death and hell. We can rest assured that we will do our work on earth and receive comfort and joy – both now and in the life to come.

Nephi always trusted in the Lord. He didn’t fight with the Lord to do things his way. Yes – there were times when Nephi had to figure out solutions to his problems. But this was not done at the expense of inspiration he received from God. Nephi’s courage to keep the commandments with exactness is what enabled him to be delivered from the trials of the wilderness and inherit a promised land.

If we will have the courage to trust God and obey Him with exactness, then we will also be enabled, empowered, and delivered.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures! We have the example of Moses. We have the example of Nephi. We have the examples of so many who did and who did not follow the Lord! If we will utilize the scriptures in our lives as Nephi did, then we will also have the power to win!

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.

From Mourning to Murmuring – 1 Nephi 16:34-36

You can read 1 Nephi 16:34-36 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Ishmael died, and they buried him in “Nahom.” (Nahom means consolation, be sorry.)
  • The daughters of Ishmael mourned exceedingly for the loss of their father. Their mourning turned to murmuring against Lehi. They murmured about being brought out to the wilderness, affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
  • They also murmured against Nephi and desire to return to Jerusalem.

From Mourning to Murmuring

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness” – 1 Nephi 16:35

As I think about mourning, I can’t help but think of the words uttered by the Savior, Himself:

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

another storm
Dark Storm Clouds, by Robert Stirrett. Click here for source.

The Lord doesn’t promise that when we are keeping His commandments, then we will be freed of life’s trials. The Lord didn’t tell Lehi, Nephi, or anyone else in the family that the path to the promised land would be simple, easy, and free of difficulty.

I don’t know what the Lord said to Lehi, specifically, when he urged him to flee from Jerusalem.

I do know the personal experiences I’ve had, though. A few years ago, my husband and I were considering the idea of starting our own business. It was an idea that we had been throwing around for a while. So we did it. My husband has always wanted to do his own thing, rather than work in the corporate world. He started working on several ideas, and would do this after he came home each night from his conventional, corporate job.

Eventually, we got to the point where we needed to make a decision. He needed to spend more time on his business if it was going to really work. We had to make a decision – whether or not we should take the risk of him quitting his job and devoting his time to his business instead.

We discussed it, prayed, about it and felt it was the right thing to do. And this is the point that I want to bring up: When we made this decision – I remember – it was an evening after work. We were sitting on the couch discussing. We both were feeling a surge of energy – the energy that comes from the Spirit, when you are on the right track. We knew we should do it. And immediately, in my heart, I also felt the spirit prompt me with a feeling – remember the pattern…You will be pushed to your limit, but don’t worry – that’s when you’ll be delivered.

What does that mean? The Lord blessed me with an understanding before the challenges even came that the challenges would indeed come. He didn’t give us the warm feeling that we should start our business, and that everything would work out quickly and easily. We knew the pattern – it would be hard. We would be pushed and tested. But if we would rely on His Spirit with complete diligence, then – just when it seemed like failure was sure – we would be delivered. This is just how it works. There are examples of this pattern time and time again – both in the scriptures and in the world, at large.

ANYWAY.

What I’m trying to say is – I kind of wonder if Lehi had a prompting like this at some point – that the path would be hard, but if he would trust in the Lord, then he would surely make it to the promised land. Not sure.

The death of Ishmael was one of those low points. And back to what I was writing before. The Lord didn’t promise that He would shield Lehi and his family from the “low points.” Instead, we know that the Lord will strengthen us and comfort us – even as we navigate the difficulties of the path.

As Lehi taught to his son, Jacob, later on:

“Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Our afflictions can be consecrated for our gain, and I think that this fact is what helps us to be comforted when we mourn. We have no need to fear. I’m reminded of the scripture:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

In this scripture, Jesus was talking to His apostles. He had just washed their feet, and had the last supper with them. Judas went to betray Him. The Savior taught the rest of the Apostles about “many mansions.” He taught them that He is the Way. He taught them to love one another. He promised them the comforter. He taught that He is the Vine. He taught them about the Holy Ghost. He taught them of His death and resurrection.

He would not be with them much longer, and they would have a mission to carry on His work without Him. It would not be easy. In the world, they would experience tribulation, but they shouldn’t fear – He has overcome the world.

So, yes, life in the wilderness for Lehi and his family was hard. And yes – they experienced a variety of afflictions. Hunger, thirst, heat, fatigue, and now death. I don’t think it would have been easy. Not even remotely easy.

But in the time of mourning, we need to seek the Lord. If we do, then we will have the opportunity to be comforted.

Receiving Comfort Is A Choice

The Lord truly honors our agency.

Even though He has promised that they that mourn will be comforted, He will not force His comfort. When we mourn, we can turn to Him and find comfort, or we can “refuse to be comforted.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:

“We, too, can “refuse to be comforted.” … Or, like Enoch, we can be intellectually meek enough to look and to accept the truths about God’s being there and about His personality and plans.” – Neal A. Maxwell

When we choose to accept the comfort of God during our times of mourning, the experience becomes holy. It may not be something we want to experience again, but we will see the benefit of it. We will be grateful for the blessings that came out of the harrowing experience.

However, if we choose not to accept the comfort of God during our times of mourning, then what usually follows is a hardening of our hearts…and murmuring.

This is exactly what happened with the daughters of Ishmael:

“…and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.

36 And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 16:35-36

And notice the result of such murmuring. They desired to return to Jerusalem! Let’s think about that for a minute. We have been reading how they have been traveling, traveling, and traveling. In chapter 16, alone, we read that they travelled for the “space of many days” three different times. And this is much later on in their journey.

Going back to Jerusalem was not a very rational idea. Most likely, they would have died if they attempted it. Their inconsolable mourning, their choice to refuse comfort, and then their murmuring blinded their minds to rational ideas and risks! And how often does this happen to us?

How often do we get frustrated, do we murmur, and then we wish to take some action that will actually take us farther away from our goal?

Not only that, but this idea—to return to Jerusalem—how does it honor their father’s memory? How might Ishmael feel that He suffered and even died in the wilderness, and after all of His sacrifices, his children turned around and went back to Jerusalem?!?! Where they would die!?!?!? If they would have gone back, then Ishmael’s death would have been in vain.

Murmuring…once again, we see that there is no point to it. It is a complete waste of time. There isn’t a single advantage. It blinds us, it makes us stupid, it separates us from God and from comfort and happiness.

So – we can learn from this experience. We can choose, when we mourn, to accept the comfort that God promises to give. We can choose to put our burdens on the Lord and by coming unto Him and yoking ourselves to Him. We can choose to allow Him to work the miracle of turning our afflictions into blessings that strengthen and refine us.