After Laman and Lemuel loosed Nephi, he took the Liahona, and it began to work again. The Lord also answered Nephi’s prayer – the winds and storm ceased and there was a great calm.
There Was a Great Calm
We have been studying 1 Nephi 18 which details the journey of Lehi and his family – on the ship to the promised land.
In case you might need a refresher, when Lehi and his family first boarded the boat from Bountiful (on the Arabian Peninsula), things were going well. They were driven forth before the winds – on a course to the promised land.
Then, of course, Laman and Lemuel forgot God. They ignored the commandments. They got raucous. Nephi was compelled by the Spirit to talk to them. There was no time (or margin of error) for an open rebellion against God while out on the Ocean. (We can guess – they were either in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean…not where you want to be in a major storm).
Laman and Lemuel were so hard in their hearts, they didn’t care about rebelling against God while on the open ocean! (Can you tell that I really can’t get over this fact! Anger and wickedness makes us so irrational!) They tied up Nephi for days, and it was only with the real threat of death that they finally repented and untied Nephi. This is where we read what happened next:
“And it came to pass after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.” – 1 Nephi 18:21
The winds, the storm, the danger didn’t stop immediately. First Nephi prayed.
I love the chorus of the familiar hymn:
“Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day.
So, when life gets dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.” – Did You Think to Pray?
There is so much hope in that refrain. There is so much hope in the power of prayer, and yet – I consistently underestimate it. I have experienced the power and miracle of prayer! And yet, I forget. I leave my room in the morning, forgetting to pray.
I forget to pray!
It was one thing for Nephi to pray while in the middle of the storm. That makes sense. But then he was untied. The Liahona started working again. It seems like Nephi could have just steered himself out of there. He didn’t need to pray again – to ask for another blessing.
But Nephi did. He prayed unto the Lord.
What do you suppose Nephi prayed for? I can’t say that I know. But here are a few things that I know about prayer:
Jesus Pleads with us to pray
When Jesus visited the Nephites in the Americas (the promised land), he stated:
Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;” – 3 Nephi 18:19
Jesus Promises to Answer Our Prayers
After teaching the people to pray, Jesus continued:
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.” – 3 Nephi 18:20
Not only has the Savior invited us to pray, but he tells of the benefit of prayer. When we ask God for blessings (that are good and right), in the name of Christ, and believing that we will receive – then it will be given unto us!
What did Nephi pray about? Not sure, but I’m going to guess that he asked for the storm to cease. They had been suffering for days. Though the Liahona was working, they were still at great risk of death. We have to speculate here, but I think it is okay to imagine that Nephi prayed gratitude that Laman and Lemuel had repented, gratitude that the Liahona was working, and a request – that the winds and storm would cease.
After Nephi uttered his prayer, the winds and storm ceased. There was a great calm.
This brings me so much peace and hope right now. I have experienced my own trials and storms. I often feel “tossed about” by the storms and winds of my life. It is easy for me to get caught up in these feelings – and get a little anxious and scared.
I feel hope by Nephi’s story because he prayed, and the Lord granted “a great calm.”
It’s interesting to note – they were still at sea. They had not yet been delivered. There were still miles to go. They would still be in the ocean for “the space of many days.” Though they were still in the wilderness of their affliction, they had been blessed to simultaneously feel “a great calm.”
The Lord may not always deliver us from our challenges, but we can feel calm and comfort even as we traverse the “oceans” in our lives.
I’m so grateful for the lessons that we learn in the Book of Mormon.
Today, I’m studying the talk Sweet Power of Prayer, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2003 session of General Conference.
Okay – so I remember this talk. I remember the examples President Nelson gave. I don’t remember anything about the moment I heard the talk…nothing like that. But I remember what was taught. It made an imprint on my soul.
Otherwise…let’s see. I had two little children at the time. Life was difficult being the mother of two toddlers, plus my marriage was iffy. But I tried my best to be faithful, and I was grateful for talks like these. I’m still grateful for them!
What is a Prayer
We will begin by defining what a prayer actually is:
1 a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought
// said a prayer for the success of the voyage
(2): a set order of words used in praying
b : a earnest wish or request
So – simply put, prayer is a communication between us and God. Prayer has always been a part of the tradition of faith – since Adam and Eve. Even though the above definition of prayer says it may be a petition to God, this doesn’t mean that we always must use a request. Our prayers can also be full of gratitude and praise to God.
Prayer is communication with our Creator.
Who Can Pray
Every single one of us can pray.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered:…” – Joel 2:32
Whoever calls on the name of the Lord—whoever prays—will be delivered.
“And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” – 2 Nephi 32:8
Any one of us can pray – happy, sad, good, evil, man, woman, child, etc…we can all pray to God. He pleads for us to ask, to call on Him, to pray! If we feel incapable or unworthy of prayer, then banish the thought! It comes from the devil. We can pray, and Heavenly Father rejoices in the soul that humbly prays.
Where We Can Pray
In the Book of Mormon, we read:
“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” – Alma 34:20-21, 26
We can pray anywhere. We can pray in our hearts or aloud. We can pray at church, home, work, school, supermarket, car, etc. The Lord will hear our prayer if we will say them!
Now – all of this being said, there are sometimes when conditions may be better than others. We need to be mindful of the Spirit and the control that we have over these physical conditions when we pray.
When To Pray
President Nelson explained:
“We pray privately, with our families regularly, at mealtime, and in daily activities. Simply summarized, we are a praying people.” – Russell M. Nelson
Why We Pray
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. Why do we pray??? I have to admit that I haven’t always been the best with prayer. I know that I can still improve. But I have searched, and I have learned more.
We pray because the Prophets have told us to pray. We pray because the Savior has asked us to pray. Above all, we pray for the reason that President Nelson shared:
Okay. So one of the reasons that we pray is to show our love for God. But how does this actually happen? What is it about prayer that communicates such a feeling toward Him? And is this the only reason to pray???
I think that the Bible Dictionary can really help us understand why we ought to pray.
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer
We pray because we love God. We pray because we understand that we are nothing without Him. We pray because we need His influence, strength, and help in life. We pray because we desire blessings for ourselves, our families, our friends, and even our enemies. We pray so we can learn to align our will with His and have peace in our lives.
A few years ago, there was a mass shooting. I can’t remember where (unfortunately, they all kind of blur together. This is a sad, sad fact). I remember that after the shooting, there were a lot of people on Facebook pledging and encouraging one another to pray for those afflicted.
I also remember someone commenting that we don’t need to pray for people, we need to do something. It seems like there was a push in this direction – deriding the power of prayer, as if it is inactive and a cop-out. I felt saddened by this sentiment because I’ve prayed for people, and others have prayed for me. I know that there is power in prayer.
I remember when I was going through a particularly difficult trial, I reached out to a friend (via email). This friend responded and said, “I’m praying for you.” I felt so humbled and grateful to know that there were people praying for me!
I remember when my brother passed away, I knelt down and prayed – so saddened by the news of his death, and so worried about my dad who was also going through a divorce at the time. As I prayed, I realized that I was not alone, my ancestors who had passed on were also praying with me. Though the grave separated us physically, we were still united by prayer. Prayer transcends time, space, and even death. This was one of the most deeply comforting things I’ve ever felt in my life.
I also know that from personal experience, when I take the time to pray – truly pray for another, often I’m also inspired on how to help them! My “anti-prayer” friend had it wrong. Not only is prayer a way to actively help another, it provides an opportunity for us to put brain space and thought towards those in needs – so we can be prompted on how to act to help them.
Thoughts and words always come before deeds. What better way to hone our good deeds than by honing our words and thoughts through prayer???!!!
How to Pray
In the New Testament, the Savior taught us how to pray.
President Nelson explained:
“Jesus taught us how [to pray]. We pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is the “true order of prayer,” in contrast to “vain repetitions” or recitations given to “be seen of men.” – Russell M. Nelson
It’s really pretty simple. We say the words that are in our hearts to our Heavenly Father. We say them in Christ’s name. The gift and power of the Holy Ghost will attend us as we pray. Prayer, I have found, is very personal and takes practice. I don’t want to really prescribe a method of prayer here. But I will say that if you search within your heart and seek the guidance of the Lord, then you will know how best to pray. There are many tips in the scriptures.
I have found that I have my own specific needs to really help me get into a good state for prayer. I try to breathe deeply. I try to eliminate distractions and noise (I put my phone on “do not disturb”). I either sit (like you would to meditate) or kneel. In fact, usually I do both of these things in a prayer. I have found that it is easier for me to calm my mind and get into a really good mental and spiritual place for prayer by doing some light activity first – I like yoga and stretching. Or walking. Something about this physical activity really helps me, personally.
We can find a way to pray that helps us to eliminate “vain repetitions” or recitations. We can find a way to express the deepest desires, fears, concerns, gratitude, and praises of our heart to our Heavenly Father.
Don’t you love that?! At this point, I’ve already used 1614 words in this blog post. I’m a wordy person, and if you have read my blog before, then you know it. But still, there are times when I just can’t put words to my thoughts, feelings, impressions, fears, concerns, etc. I can’t put words to my joy. I can’t always put words to what I want to say to my Heavenly Father. It is so refreshing for me to know that as I pray, I can be silent, even wordless!
Song of Prayer
At this time, President Nelson presented a song that he wrote. I still remember the tabernacle choir singing it. The song of the righteous is a prayer to God. I love this song, and actually made an arrangement for it some time ago. You can find it here: Our Prayer To Thee
Every time I study one of President Nelson’s talk, I find that I have grown to love him more. I’m so grateful for the prophet. What a blessing to be guided by a prophet of the Lord in these latter-days. I’m grateful that he is a man of prayer. During the talk, he shared his own experience with prayer as a heart surgeon. For President Nelson, prayer was not simply a thing to be done at church or at mealtime. He prayed for his patients and before performing surgery. He was guided by the Lord during surgery, and his willingness to pray and open himself to God revolutionized an aspect of surgery on valves in the heart. President Nelson shared his experience:
“Many of us have had experiences with the sweet power of prayer. One of mine was shared with a stake patriarch from southern Utah. I first met him in my medical office more than 40 years ago, during the early pioneering days of surgery of the heart. This saintly soul suffered much because of a failing heart. He pleaded for help, thinking that his condition resulted from a damaged but repairable valve in his heart.
Extensive evaluation revealed that he had two faulty valves. While one could be helped surgically, the other could not. Thus, an operation was not advised. He received this news with deep disappointment.
Subsequent visits ended with the same advice. Finally, in desperation, he spoke to me with considerable emotion: “Dr. Nelson, I have prayed for help and have been directed to you. The Lord will not reveal to me how to repair that second valve, but He can reveal it to you. Your mind is so prepared. If you will operate upon me, the Lord will make it known to you what to do. Please perform the operation that I need, and pray for the help that you need.”
His great faith had a profound effect upon me. How could I turn him away again? Following a fervent prayer together, I agreed to try. In preparing for that fateful day, I prayed over and over again, but still did not know what to do for his leaking tricuspid valve. Even as the operation commenced, my assistant asked, “What are you going to do for that?”
I said, “I do not know.”
We began the operation. After relieving the obstruction of the first valve, we exposed the second valve. We found it to be intact but so badly dilated that it could no longer function as it should. While examining this valve, a message was distinctly impressed upon my mind: Reduce the circumference of the ring. I announced that message to my assistant. “The valve tissue will be sufficient if we can effectively reduce the ring toward its normal size.”
But how? We could not apply a belt as one would use to tighten the waist of oversized trousers. We could not squeeze with a strap as one would cinch a saddle on a horse. Then a picture came vividly to my mind, showing how stitches could be placed—to make a pleat here and a tuck there—to accomplish the desired objective. I still remember that mental image—complete with dotted lines where sutures should be placed. The repair was completed as diagrammed in my mind. We tested the valve and found the leak to be reduced remarkably. My assistant said, “It’s a miracle.”
I responded, “It’s an answer to prayer.”
The patient’s recovery was rapid and his relief gratifying. Not only was he helped in a marvelous way, but surgical help for other people with similar problems had become a possibility. I take no credit. Praise goes to this faithful patriarch and to God, who answered our prayers. This faithful man lived for many more years and has since gone to his eternal glory.” – Russell M. Nelson
We are guided today by a prophet who not only believes in prayer – theoretically – but has chosen to live that belief. Our prophet has witnessed and taken part in miracles through his willingness to pray. We can learn from his words and his example! We can choose to pray and live as faithfully as the words we utter in our prayers. I know that I am inspired to improve my prayers because of him.
After seeing the vision of the tree of life, and then returning to the tent of his father, Nephi sees that his brothers are disputing. They are arguing about the meaning of what Lehi had been teaching them.
Nephi asks his brothers if they had inquired of the Lord, and they hadn’t.
Nephi then asks his brothers a few more “How is it?!?!” questions…
How is it?!?!?! AGAIN!
So – back in chapter 7, Nephi asked his brothers How is it that… You can read more about that here.
Since then (chapter 7), Nephi and his brothers have successfully returned to the tent of their father in the wilderness with the family of Ishmael, Lehi has told his family about his vision of the tree of life, Lehi has prophesied of the Savior and of the scattering and gathering of Israel, and Nephi has had the vision of the tree of life – including its interpretation.
I guess we don’t know everything that has happened since. I’m sure that time passed. I’m sure that the days grew long, even if the weeks were short. It is obvious that even though at the close of chapter 7, Laman and Lemuel were repentant and praying to God, things had changed by now. They were forgetting again. All of the How is it…??? questions that Nephi had asked had long been forgotten, and Nephi’s brothers were back into their old habits. They were having disputations in their father’s tent.
In 1 Nephi, we read of their exchange:
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” – 1 Nephi 15:8-9
They hadn’t asked the Lord? Why not? Because, according to them, the Lord wouldn’t make such a thing known to them. I still feel that their argument on why they shouldn’t pray is idiotic. But whatever. We all do it to an extent.
And maybe I should be a little more understanding. Maybe they Lord wouldn’t have made these things known to them. I mean, remember – before Nephi could receive the vision, the Spirit asked him a few things – did he believe the words of his father? Would he be willing to testify of the Savior after he saw this vision. (See 1 Nephi 11:4-6.) Would Nephi’s brothers have lived up to the requirements of such understanding??? Perhaps not. So, maybe they were right when they said that the Lord wouldn’t make such things known to them.
I don’t mean to sound skeptical or like Laman and Lemuel. What I mean is – we know that if we want to receive witness, then we need to pray with real intent. Perhaps they didn’t pray with real intent, in which case they are right – what’s the point of praying for knowledge if they don’t have real intent in the first place?!?
Well… anyway. Here is Nephi’s response to his brothers:
“Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” – 1 Nephi 15:10-11
How Is It that Ye Do Not Keep the Commandments of the Lord?
Here is the heart of the issue. Nephi’s brothers won’t keep the commandments. They will not love God and keep Him at the center of their lives and worship. They don’t trust Him. They don’t pray to Him. They don’t seek Him.
Nephi asks why they don’t do it. It’s a fair question. Already they have had some pretty miraculous experiences. They even had a change of heart in the past, albeit short-lived…but why? Why won’t they keep the commandments of the Lord?
We know, from 1 Nephi 2:12 why people murmur:
“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 knew the command:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3
They also knew the commandment that was given time and time again in the Old Testament:
“5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5
Laman and Lemuel knew that loving God and worshipping Him were central to their entire belief. They knew that they should pray. They knew that their actions should mirror their feelings toward Him.
And if they would have kept these commandments – to have no other god before God, to love Him with all their hearts, soul, and mind, then they would have known the dealings of that God that created them. They wouldn’t murmur. They would pray with real intent. They would have their prayers answered.
How Is It that Ye Will Perish Because of the Hardness of your Hearts?
Perishing. Death. This is the result of refusing to keep the commandments. This is the result of nurturing a hard heart.
It sounds funny when I write it nurturing a hard heart. But it happens. Sometimes, instead of creating fertile ground in our hearts, we actually work hard to keep our hearts too hard for faith to grow.
We do this through doubt, murmuring, skepticism, anger. These choices keep our hearts nice and hard…
Which leads, invariably, to perishing. Now, I’m not say that we’ll just drop dead right now. No. I mean, we all know that death is a fact of life. It is the fact of life.
But when we harden our hearts against God – we deaden our spirits. He is life, so our choice to harden our hearts against Him cuts us off from the source of life, light, and hope.
My time for studying is up, so I will stop for now. Nephi asks his brothers another question – Do you not remember things which the Lord hath said?, and I will study this later.
But for our purposes today, these two question listed in verse 10 are good gauges for us, too. Do we keep the commandments? What is the condition of our hearts?
When you think about these questions, what are your answers?
One last thing, I am not trying to suggest that we are perfect. We simply need to be doing our best. In fact, I’ll answer these questions for myself as best as I can in hopes that it will help you, too.
Do I keep the commandments – Yes, I’m striving to. I’m trying my best. Of course I have room for improvement, but I’m also not wilfully rebelling against God. I’m working through weaknesses and bad habits. The Lord is patient with me and my pride. But I’m doing my best to keep His commandments every day.
Above all, I’m doing everything I can to keep the commandment to repent – this commandment helps to cover my other mistakes!
I do love God. I love Him with all my might, mind, and strength. It isn’t much, but I love Him as much as I’m capable, and am working every day to become more capable.
I am also working as hard as I can to love my neighbors as myself. I’m trying to become better at giving others the benefit of the doubt, to be more patient, to be kinder. And I’m trying to do this better with myself, too – since I’m often my worst enemy.
Of course, I’m not perfect. I don’t think that this is what Nephi means. But I’m working hard every day to be able to kneel down and pray and repent and be straight with God. And I’m so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ that makes my measly effort enough.
What is the condition of my heart
My heart may not be the most malleable heart on this earth, but I’m working really hard to keep it in good shape – both physically and spiritually. I know that when our hearts are physically hard, we will croak. The same is true spiritually.
I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be cut off from God. So I’m doing what I can to keep my heart soft. I try to read my scriptures and pray daily. I try hard to be grateful. I try to remember to trust God – to submit to His will. I’m trying to be charitable and kind.
Obviously, I’m not anywhere near perfect in this regard either. Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t expect compliance without mistakes. Instead, he expects our best effort at compliance and reliance on Him. When we do our best to comply to His commandments, and then we rely on Him to make up the rest of what we lack, then we are good!
The point in me sharing this is because I think that this is all possible!, and it is meant to be possible. Nephi isn’t special. He is just like you and me – he’s simply trying his best to keep the commandments and to keep his heart supple and soft.
His efforts are all the Lord requires. The same goes for us, too. All the Lord wants is for us to have real intent – to give a true effort.
I may not keep the commandments perfectly. I may not have the softest heart. But I AM making a daily effort – as much as I can. Because of my commitment to doing my best each day, and because of the Savior’s mercy and grace, I have been blessed. I have learned a lot. I have felt the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I know that if the Lord will have mercy on me, He will have mercy on anyone and everyone who seeks Him with real intent.
After Nephi saw the vision of the tree of life, he returned to the tent of his father.
When Nephi got to Lehi’s tent, he saw that they were arguing with each other – concerning the things that his father had said to them.
Lehi spoke many things that were hard to be understood…UNLESS the listener asked God for help in understanding.
Nephi was grieved because of the hardness of the hearts of his brothers.
Nephi was also very grieved because he saw the destruction of his people.
Nephi received strength from God, and then he asked his brothers why they were arguing. They said that they didn’t understand the olive tree metaphor.
Nephi asks if they have gone to God to understand, but they haven’t.
Back in Lehi’s Tent
Nephi returns to his father’s tent after his major vision…a few things:
One – Nephi is Depleted of Strength
Nephi just had a major vision. He saw that Christ would come to the world. He saw his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Nephi saw that the Savior would visit Nephi’s posterity in the Americas after his resurrection. Nephi saw many beautiful things.
However, he also saw some more troubling things, too. Nephi saw the death of the Savior, the pride of the world, and the complete destruction of his people. He saw the church of the devil grow in size and in power. He saw that wicked people with wicked intentions would even alter God’s word – causing the stumbling of many.
The vision, as recorded in 1 Nephi, ended on a hopeful note, though. After so much scattering and stumbling by the people of the earth, Nephi saw that God wouldn’t forget his promises. He would gather his people. He would bring about the Book of Mormon. He would do a marvelous work and a wonder. Of course, this wasn’t the end of the vision. Nephi saw more, but was forbidden to record it.
I can only imagine how exhausting this must have been. I have had some spiritual experiences that are a rush in the moment, and then after the rush, you feel a bit wiped out. It’s like a sprint.
So – Nephi returns to the tent of his father somewhat tired, wiped out, depleted of strength. I would imagine that he was also still deep in thought – perhaps even wanting to talk with his father.
In any case, I doubt that Nephi was thrilled to find, when he arrived at the tent of his father, his brothers fighting and disputing about what his father had spoken. I don’t know…I think it would have been a bit demoralizing. Not only was Nephi feeling a little bit wiped out, but that would have been a shock to then face his brothers and their petty arguments after such a spiritual high.
“And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.
5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.” – 1 Nephi 15:1-10
So – yeah. He is tired. And then grieved because of the hardness of the hearts of his brothers – which probably just reminded him of some of the depressing things that he had learned in the vision he had had.
Nephi is so grieved he is overcome because of his afflictions. He’s out of it! This doesn’t sound like the Nephi we are accustomed to. He is overwhelmed.
I don’t know how long he was feeling overwhelmed, but at some point, he received strength, and then he deals with his brothers.
Two – Lehi did Speak Things that were Hard to Understand
For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought. – 1 Nephi 15:3
Let’s think about what Lehi said to them. I won’t go back into the details, but they include chapter 8 – which is the vision of the tree of life (remember – he didn’t give them the interpretation of this dream!); chapter 10 – which were prophecies of the scattering and gathering of Israel, the coming of a Messiah, the allegory of the olive tree.
Additionally, we read:
“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 10:17
Even Nephi, when he heard the words of his father, did not understand them. He didn’t know what this tree meant. Why were the people in the great and spacious building mocking the people partaking of the fruit of the tree? He didn’t know. Nephi could recognize that there was significance to his father’s dream, but he didn’t understand it.
Not only that, but Nephi didn’t completely understand the other prophecies that His father taught his children afterward.
Nephi wasn’t frustrated by his father. Nor was Nephi frustrated with himself for his lack of understanding. Nephi knew that he could go to the Lord, and that the Lord would help him understand what he needed to know.
We know that Nephi’s seeking yielded in finding. We know that the Lord unfolded the meaning of Lehi’s dream to Nephi. Not only that, but we know that this desire and faith of Nephi’s yielded a life-changing experience and testimony.
Without help from the Lord, Lehi’s dream and his prophecies were not easily understood.
Three – Have Ye Inquired of the Lord???
We know that Lehi’s words were hard to understand – not only for Laman, Lemuel, and Sam but also for Nephi. We also know that Nephi sought the Lord for understanding, and the Lord answered His prayer with an amazing vision.
(Note: I don’t know which brethren this included – Laman, Lemuel, and Sam? Maybe only one or two of them? Not sure, so from this point on, I’ll either say brethren or brothers.) Nephi’s brethren also had a hard time understanding Lehi’s prophecies. In fact, this was the cause of their disputation.
After getting some strength again, Nephi asked:
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?” – 1 Nephi 15:8
It’s a fair question! This is exactly what he had done, and it was why he wasn’t in the tent disputing what his father’s teachings meant. He didn’t need to dispute. He asked God and now he knew.
How would it help us to think of this situation???…well, It’s like when my kids ask, “Mom, I can’t find my shoes!” and I say, “Did you look for them?” It’s so simple. In fact, this is almost an unfair comparison. When we go to the Lord, with real intent, then we will receive. The Lord implores:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seekethfindeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” – Matthew 21:21-22
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seekme diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:63
Nephi wasn’t being a jerk. It was an honest question…did they ask?
Four – Spoiler: They Didn’t Ask
Nephi asked his brothers if they had inquired of the Lord. And they hadn’t! Silly billies. You know…this wouldn’t have been so bad if it went like this:
Nephi: Hey…why are you guys fighting? Bro: Because of what dad was saying. It didn’t even make any sense. I mean, why didn’t we eat the fruit in his dream?! And why is he so worried about it? What’s the big deal, anyway. It was just a weird dream. I mean, did you hear that – there was a “great and spacious building” just floating on the air. Other Bro: Yeah, man. It made no sense. And then that olive tree stuff. What is dad talking about? He is a nut job. Bro: Right? What does an olive tree have to do with anything with us or with the gentiles? Hearing about olive trees is just making me hungry. Other Bro: Don’t you get it, the olive tree means that the Gentiles are going to try to rip you into pieces. Bro: Yeah right. They can’t do that. I mean, if they even think of coming at me, I’m gonna…— Nephi: Guys, guys…Stop for a second. What dad said was kind of confusing, but did you ask God to help you understand? Bro: Nope…that’s a good idea though. Maybe I should. Other Bro: Yeah…I didn’t even think of that. Thanks Nephi. I’m gonna go see if I can understand this better.
[Exit Bro and Other Bro – where they go and pray, each of them on their own, and receive the witnesses and understanding that they each need – dependent on their lives, missions, and God’s will.]
That would have been pretty cool.
Imagine what would have followed. Instead of coming back into Lehi’s tent to fight, they would have all starting talking about what they learned. They could have had a pretty edifying experience.
Unfortunately, it went nothing like that. Instead, it went like this:
“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” – 1 Nephi 15:8-9
I have never really understood their response – even though I’ve seen variations of it through the course of my life. But seriously…they didn’t pray because God doesn’t answer their prayers? But they didn’t pray in the first place? This is insane. Talk about a fallacy! Talk about false logic. I mean, this is kind of stupid.
Yet – I think that we do this in our lives. We make the decision for God before we even ask Him. We refuse to exercise our faith because we have already decided that He won’t answer our prayers.
It’s so sad, but we do this. We stop ourselves before we even start. Just like Nephi’s bros. Silly, silly, silly. Instead of being silly like them, we can learn from Nephi’s example. Ask God. Remember Him. Just try.
And one more thing – maybe their response isn’t so stupid. Maybe they felt that God doesn’t answer prayers because they had never experienced God before. Maybe they were right – maybe God wouldn’t make anything known to them.
Remember Oliver Cowdery’s experience. The Lord granted Oliver the chance to translate the records. But it was hard! Translating the records was not easy. It took a lot of effort to be spiritually tuned and translating.
This difficulty frustrated Oliver Cowdery. He gave up translating and then wondered why he wasn’t successful.
The Lord responded:
Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. – Doctrine and Covenants 9:6-8
Maybe Nephi’s brothers had had similar experiences. Maybe they had prayed, but underestimated the faith and effort required to know the mysteries of God. Maybe these past experiences shaded the response they gave when Nephi asked them if they had asked. Maybe they knew that the Lord would not reveal anything to them.
Of course, their response is almost an accusation against God. It seems that they take no accountability. They don’t seem to even consider the fact that they need to put forth a little bit of effort if they want to get answers.
Again, I think that this is something that we might do, too. There are times when I just kind of whine and pray and great things to come easily. Unwavering faith is the first step toward any kind of miracle, but it won’t get you to your destination on its own. To receive wisdom or experience miracles, then we must take the next step—unprecedented effort. Truly, faith without works is dead.
Okay. That’s all for today. We will be back in Lehi’s tent next time.
Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.
We’ve been studying about the destruction of the Nephites in the past few blog posts. The Savior, after being resurrected, visited and ministered to the people of the Americas. As a result of the visitation from the Savior, the Nephites became one people. They lived in peace. There were no classes, no wars, no wickedness. They were very happy.
This joyful society lasted for about four generations, but then pride crept into the hearts of the people. Soon, they no longer had things in common. Class was reintroduced. Then, it wasn’t long before all manner of evils started to become commonplace again. Sin, wickedness, and pride spread through the people like a wildfire – with devastating effects.
Nephi sees some of this – one thousand years before it will happen. We read:
“And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.” – 1 Nephi 12:19
The self-destruction of the Nephites
They became proud.
This pride set them against God, and they gave into the temptations of the devil.
As I read this verse, I am kind of fixated on that word: Temptations. It has a footnote – to the Topical Guide. I think that I will study a few of the entries here today.
Temptation is a Part of Mortal Life
Even before the foundation of this world, the Lord had a plan – we would come to the earth to be tried and tested.
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” – Abraham 3:25
God created the world and then created Adam and Eve. He set them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve dwelt in His presence, but there was a condition – they could not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then remain in His presence.
The Lord then allowed them to be tempted.
Temptation has always been a part of our experience. It is something we should simply accept. When we understand that temptation is a part of our experience, then we can have power over it.
We know that Adam and Eve were tempted, and they fell. This fall introduced death and sin into the world. But it had a positive effect, too – they obtained knowledge and they were able to keep their first commandment and have children. The plan of salvation would move forward. We could all come to the earth to be tempted, tested, and tried.
Pride and Temptation
We read in 1 Nephi 12 that because of the pride of the Nephites, they entered into temptation, and then they were overpowered by their enemies. In the Doctrine and Covenants a similar warning is given to Oliver Cowdery:
“1 Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” – Doctrine and Covenants 23:1
Why does pride lead us into temptation? I mean, really – I want to search that. Why does pride lead us into temptation? Because, obviously it does. And, honestly, we don’t even need to know why in order to understand the pattern that when we have pride, we are more easily beset by sin and temptation. However, maybe if we understand the mechanics of it – maybe if we deconstruct it – then we will fight and rage against pride – so that we aren’t led into temptation – so that we don’t wander off, get lost, and become miserable.
I suppose that we first need to understand, really, what pride is. And I know that I’ve already studied this before, but it’s fine. I am feeling that I need to study this, so here we go. I love President Ezra Taft Benson’s explanation of pride:
Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. – Ezra Taft Benson
I love this explanation because I think that we often do get stuck on the first paragraph – we think of pride as being some kind of braggart-ly jerk. We think of someone who is conceited and cocky. We might think of an arrogant loud mouth boaster. We may even think of it more subtly – the “rat race” or someone who needs to “keep up with Joneses” by wearing a fancy watch and driving a nice car.
Even in the Book of Mormon, when we read that pride is creeping into the hearts of the people, they are described as wearing fine clothing. And yes – this can be a part of pride.
But the jerkiness, the haughtiness, the boastful dude who talks trash to others, the subtle passive aggressive lady who gives back-handed complements, the name dropping, the nice cars, the peer pressure, the politics, the condescension and judgment of others – those are all symptoms. They are correlations, but not the causation of pride.
President Benson teaches more than the little outward symptoms of pride. He gets to the heart of the matter – which happens to be the heart. Pride is enmity toward God. And enmity toward God is anything that causes us to hate Him, have hostility toward Him, or put us in opposition against Him. When we really think of it that way, then we will begin to see that even if we aren’t driving a Lamborghini, we may still be suffering from pride.
President Benson also explains:
“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s.” – Ezra Taft Benson
It’s starting to get easy to see why giving into pride will then lead to giving in to other temptations. What chance do we even have to ward off temptation if we already have our wills pitted against God’s?
The first great commandment is to love God. The second is love others. When we allow pride into our hearts – our enmity may be directed toward God, which, of course, is breaking that first commandment. It is also possible to have our enmity directed to others. President Benson taught:
“Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)
The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)” – Ezra Taft Benson
Does this sound familiar? I wish it didn’t to me. I have often found myself frustrated by the success and joy of others – rather than also joyful for them. This is a form of pride. Left untamed, it can lead to giving into more serious temptations – I mean, really, what is at the root of coveting? Pride. Adultery? Pride. Murder? Pride.
If you keep your hearts pure and full of charity, then you probably won’t go out and commit a gross sin against others. It just won’t be a temptation anymore. Well, actually maybe it will be a temptation. There are always temptations in life. But when we learn to get a handle on pride, then we also won’t succumb so much to temptation.
One more thing about pride. Not only is pride related to enmity, it is also very intimately related with fear. President Benson said:
” The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”
“Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.) Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God. (John 8:29.) Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?” – Ezra Taft Benson
Sometimes we become at odds against God because we worry more about what others think than what He thinks. When we start worrying about others, we then might be led into temptation – we might say yes when the right thing is to say no, we may think that we need to live outside of our means, we might even be willing to hurt others if that pleases those we fear.
Pride just leads to temptation—plain and simple. If we want to have strength against temptation, then we need to attack it at the root—pride.
Prayer Wards off Pride
Both pride and temptation are thwarted by true prayer. Remember what we learned about pride—it is enmity against God. We have pitted our will against His.
Instead, prayer is an exercise where we align our wills with Gods. In the Bible Dictionary we learn about prayer.
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer
First of all – prayer becomes more natural when we learn the true relationship between us and our Father. Think about pride right now – when we have pride in our hearts, are we remembering that we are children speaking to our loving Father in Heaven? When we understand the being that created us, prayer becomes more instinctive.
“Difficulties” about prayer arise from our own silliness – in forgetting that our Father in Heaven is our Father in Heaven!
Pride – plain and simple. So – when I pray, I need to remember that I am a daughter of God. Which means, He is my Father. Which means that He may have just a little bit more knowledge than I do. Which also means that He may just have a little bit more love than I do.
The Bible Dictionary continues:
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer
When we try to pit our will against God’s – this is pride. When we try to change the will of God – this is pride! We have forgotten who we are and who He is. We have forgotten that He created this world! We have forgotten that His ways are higher than our ways, and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We have become so puffed up and sure of ourselves that we foolishly believe that our knowledge and will to be better than God’s.
Prayer – real prayer – is a way that we can remember our relationship with God and realign our wills with His. It is a way that we can discover His will. (I don’t want to get into this now, but often I think that His will isn’t some specific point by point plan for our lives. We are co-creators. Yet, there is an ideal, and if we seek to understand His will, then we will be much better off!) Prayer can help to ward off pride.
Prayer Helps us Overcome Temptation
This post is rather long, but I want to finish with a few scriptures about the connection between prayer and temptation
One – Matthew 6:13
The Lord’s prayer is a pattern for us to follow. He specifically asks for help – not to be lead into temptation but delivered from evil.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:13
I ask for a lot of blessings, and I do plead that the Spirit can be with me, but I’m not sure that I always ask for protection against evil and temptation.
Two – Alma 34:39
“Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing.” – Alma 34:39
Not only do we need to pray that we won’t be led into temptation, but we need to pray continually!
I love the phrase, that he may not overpower you. I will share a time when I was feeling a bit overpowered. Overwhelmed. Things go great for a while, and then it’s just hard. And what is the problem – most likely my lack of prayer. I try to pray, really pray, each day. Usually, I’m pretty okay at it. At one point, I was in a pretty dismal situation of life. I didn’t have much space to myself, either. I knew I needed to pray, but where could I really turn to pray? I didn’t have a closet. I didn’t have a quiet moment. It was hard to physically find a place for prayer and peace! I suppose that in times like these, one must simply pray in her heart.
I hate to admit that there are times when I let my circumstances cause me to become a little casual.
And then, it just adds up and I feel overpowered and overwhelmed. So….PRAY! The Lord will give us the strength or insight that we need so we don’t feel overpowered or overwhelmed. We will be guided on what we need to do to stay the course and be happy.
Three – Matthew 26:41
The Savior spoke the following words to Peter, James, and John after he found them asleep while He suffered in Gethsemane:
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41
At first glance, this seems like pretty pointed advice to the three apostles that were accompanying the Savior. Not only that, I kind of understand the plight of Peter, James, and John. Most nights, my husband and I watch a short, funny TV show. And every single time we do I fall asleep. Usually, I can’t even make it through the OPENING credits before falling asleep! I can get how it would have been hard for Peter, James, John to stay awake in that dark garden – because my flesh is SO weak.
And that’s the thing, though. This scripture probably applies to all of us in most situations. My flesh is weak. I need the Lord. I need His help. I am willing, but my flesh is WEAK!!! This isn’t an excuse. It is actually meant as a motivation: PRAY! We can’t do it on our own.
When we pray, we are strengthened by the Lord and His spirit. We calm and clear our minds in thoughtful, humble prayer. We align our wills with His. We can feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost – to know what actions we should and maybe even should not take in life.
Our flesh is weak – and on our own, it is way too susceptible to temptation. But we haven’t been left alone. We have a loving Advocate who pleads our cause. However, He can’t plead our cause if we aren’t pleading it, too – in His name. The Lord will make us strong. He wants to make us strong. We just need to humble ourselves and pray.
I needed to read this today and to be reminded. I can see why the word “temptation” was standing out to me. I can see why I needed to study temptation, pride, and prayer. I need to remember to really pray and to really believe that Heavenly Father answers our prayers.
I needed to remember that Heavenly Father does allow us to be exposed to challenges and trials in our lives, but that we aren’t alone. We have His help, His constant companionship.
I needed to remember that His help doesn’t mean that He will navigate rough waters for me, but that He will enable me to do it, and that a big part of this grace is given to us through prayer. Through prayer I will be able to come off conquer and not be overcome by temptation.
I’m so grateful for the scriptures. I know that they will help us every single day if we will just crack them open and listen to what the Lord wants to teach us. I also know that the Lord is guiding us. Every time I learn something in my personal scripture study, I realize that the Lord truly knows me, is mindful of me, and wants to answer my prayers – but He will not rob me of experience and growth when He does answer them. Understanding this helps to strengthen my faith and trust in Him.
I’m so grateful to know we have a loving Father in Heaven. I’m so grateful to know that we have a Savior who is also pleading our cause for us. I am so grateful to know that we don’t have to travel through our lives alone. I’m grateful to know that there is a way out of temptation. We have One we can turn to, and He’s only a prayer away.
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.
What Desirest Thou? (Deux)
FYI, we will be studying this section of scriptures for more than one day. Just letting you know now.
We have already studied Nephi’s desire. He wanted to know the the things his father had seen. This is how chapter 11 opens. Now, after a little back and forth, the Spirit rejoices – Nephi has the desire and faith in order 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.
And what does Nephi see? We read:
“And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” – 1 Nephi 11:8-22
So – Nephi sees the tree of life. Nephi confirms this:
“And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.” – 1 Nephi 11:9
After this the Spirit asks Nephi again What desirest thou?
You know, as I write this, I realize that the Spirit probably already knew the answer to this.
Think about it. Nephi had already been praying and pondering – to know what Lehi saw. Then, after Nephi was taken away into a high mountain the Spirit asked him “What desirest thou?” He probably already knew the answer then. Nephi told him – to see what his father had seen.
Then, as we know, the Spirit asked Nephi if he believed. Yes, Nephi believed. Rejoicing! The Spirit shows Nephi this one thing – a tree. Then asks him again, “What desirest thou?”
Why is he asking this again? Why is it so important for Nephi to reiterate what he desires so many times? I firmly believe that the Spirit already knows what Nephi desires. We know that the Spirit can discern our thoughts. So, why is the Spirit asking this again?
I can’t say that I know for sure.
Right now, the only thought I’m having is prayer.
I don’t know if it is the right train of thought, but we’ll see where it goes.
Remember the parable:
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:1-8
This is such an interesting parable. I found the following in the Institute Manual:
“Luke stated the main message of the parable of the importuning widow and unjust judge- “men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” (Luke 18:1). The Greek word translated as “to faint” means to become discouraged or weary or to tire of something. In the parable, praying without giving up is represented by a widow who repeatedly appeals to a judge to remedy her injustice.” – New Testament Student Manual
“To faint” means to become discouraged or weary or to tire of something. Nephi doesn’t get discouraged or tired when repeatedly asked “What desirest thou?”
In fact, I kind of wonder – even though the Lord probably knew his heart and what he desired, maybe Nephi needed to say it. To get better answers, we need better questions. The Lord was willing to answer his questions, but he had to ask them first.
Maybe, before being asked “What desirest thou?” Nephi hadn’t really verbalized his feeling. I’m not sure if this makes sense. I have found that there are many times when I have “feelings.” Then, if I’m asked to describe what I’m feeling, I have to kind of search to figure it out. If you are reading this blog, then you get to see me trying to sort out the feelings I have into words. I think that this process can lead to epiphanies.
So – maybe Nephi needed to say what he wanted so that he would know precisely what he wanted – so that the Lord could then answer his prayer. He needed to be asked repeatedly because for some reason, we have to pray in the same way – without getting discouraged, always expressing our faith.
The institute manual continues:
“Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “When lonely, cold, hard times come, we have to endure, we have to continue, we have to persist. That was the Savior’s message in the parable of the importuning widow. …” – New Testament Student Manual
I’m interrupting this quote for a second because I love what comes next, but I want to address one idea first. We have to persist. Nephi didn’t get frustrated when asked repeatedly, “What desirest thou?” He thought about it, and then he asked. He persisted, and this is why he received.
Okay, continuing on:
“Keep knocking on that door. Keep pleading. In the meantime, know that God hears your cries and knows your distress. He is your Father, and you are His child.” – New Testament Student Manual
When I read this chapter and quote back in Heber, it was needful! I needed to read it! I already wrote about nudges. I kept feeling a nudge when I read the question “What desirest thou?” And I realized, I desire home.
The next day, when continuing on in 1 Nephi 11, I AGAIN read “What desirest thou?” Again, I had the nudge. At first, I kind of put the thought away – about my desire – because I had already explored it. Was it worth repeating? But, I was getting nudged. (And if you are reading this blog post, I hope it doesn’t annoy you to hear more about this story. Maybe you can find another commentary. For now, I’m going to keep sharing. Thanks!)
So, I asked myself again: What desirest thou?
The next nudge I received was the thought about the parable that I shared earlier. Were these two things related? Maybe not. As in, maybe not in a scholarly way. Don’t go to your Sunday School class and say that there is a relationship between the Spirit asking Nephi “What desirest thou?” and the parable of the importuning widow and the unjust judge. You may seem crazy.
Of course, this isn’t a scholarly blog. So yay!
Now here’s the connection. Yes, I pondered my desire. But had I been like that widow? Had I knelt down and prayed about it? Had I poured out my soul to the Lord telling him what I desired? Did I answer that question –What Desirest Thou? – again and again (like Nephi) so I could discover on a deep level exactly that which I desired, and so I could also receive it?
I mean, the Spirit wasn’t setting Nephi up! He asked Nephi what he desired so that Nephi would express his desire, so that then the Lord could deliver! AMAZING!
We’re kind of doing a part two on “What desirest thou?” today. I hope that’s okay. And we’re combining it with the parable told in Luke. What is it you desire? Does the Lord know it?
I have an admission to make – yes, of course the Lord knew that I desired home. He is omniscient, and I’m sure that He had heard me talk about my desire with my husband, my friends, and others. And yes, I had lightly mentioned it in a few of my prayers.
But I hadn’t cried day and night. I hand’t shared with Him my desires and why they are my desires. I pondered, yes. And I prayed, technically, but I knew that I was not praying the way that the Lord wanted me to pray. I knew that I was capable of praying in a way that really created an environment where I could commune with God. I’d had amazing experiences praying, and then I’d become lazy.
I realized that I take for granted that God knows my heart, and I just think that I should be lazy sometimes – let Him read my mind and answer my prayers. I don’t trouble the Lord. I don’t weary Him with my prayers, with my desires, with my gratitude.
And yet the Lord is so merciful and patient with me. Even though I hadn’t humbled myself in prayer the way I ought to, He loves me. He sees the efforts I make. And He was speaking to me through the words of Nephi:
What desirest thou?
I knew that my desire was righteous. And I knew that I need to kneel down, pray, and tell Him directly.
After realizing that I needed to trouble the Lord with my prayers, I made a decision to find a quiet place to pray, really pray, ever day. At the time, I was living in my in-laws house, and it was hard to really get comfortable for a quiet prayer.
So, I went outside and found a good spot…
…and prayed. I made an effort to pray here every day. I have wearied the Lord with my prayers, and the answer didn’t come right away, but the Lord has still gently guided me on the path. And at some future point, I know that I’ll receive what I desire.
So – what desirest thou? Think about it. Is it a righteous desire? Pray about it. Weary the Lord with your prayers. Ask, seek, knock…And He will answer.
Lehi sees a tree with fruit that is desirable to make one happy.
Lehi partook of the fruit. It was sweet above all that he had before tasted and white above all whiteness he had ever seen.
When Lehi partook of the fruit, it filled his soul with joy.
Lehi was desirous that his family should also partake of the fruit.
If you remember from yesterday’s reading, Lehi had been in a dark and dreary waste. He saw a man who bid Lehi to come and follow Him. Lehi did.
After following Him, Lehi found himself in the dark and dreary waste again. This time, he prayed, and then saw a spacious field and a tree.
Even from afar off, he saw that the tree had desirable fruit.
What made the fruit so desirable? Why did he want it so bad?
Seeing a Tree of Life After Traveling in a Dark and Dreary Waste
Well – first of all, I suppose that seeing this tree with white fruit was a stark contrast from the dark and dreary world that he had been in prior to seeing the tree. He described it as a “dark and dreary waste.” After being in such a dark and dreary waste, the glowing tree would seem quite desirable.
Desirable to Make One Happy
Again, I think that it is helpful to think of the Fruit in contrast to the “dark and dreary waste.”
Even though I can understand what “dreary” means, I thought that I’d look it up in the dictionary:
“Dull, bleak, and lifeless; depressing.”
Imagine the joy to see a tree – wait, not just any tree – the Tree of Life after being lost in a dark and dreary world … a dark, dull, bleak, lifeless, and depressing world. Imagine that joy.
The idea that is coming to me is that it would be like “seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lehi wandered in darkness, lifelessness. It was discouraging and depressing. I’m willing to guess that maybe Lehi even felt hopeless. In fact, we know that after a while, he finally prayed to God for help.
And after that prayer, things opened up for him. He saw a large field. And then, a tree – full of life. The antithesis of that dark and dreary waste in which he had spent hours wandering.
“And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted.” – 1 Nephi 8:11
I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I don’t need any more convincing on why this fruit was great.
Again, we read:
“Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.” – 1 Nephi 8:11
Not only was the fruit sweet, but Lehi describes it as “white” – to exceed all of the whiteness he had ever seen.
I think that this is symbolic of Lehi’s understanding that it is not just any old fruit. This fruit is special. It is heavenly. The fruit of this tree is not like an apple, pear, or even a mango. It has a quality – perhaps it’s even shining out because it is so white.
And we have to remember that this was a dream. Everything Lehi is experiencing is within his dream. Which means that everything is symbolic of something else.
I suppose if I was having a dream, and there was a tree with white, glowing fruit – in stark contrast to the dark and dreary world where I had just been – I think that I would recognize this tree as celestial.
So – that’s my best guess on the “whiteness” of this tree.
“It Filled My Soul with Exceedingly Great Joy”
Lehi’s determination to partake of this fruit is good. His instincts – that this fruit was desirable to make one happy – were right. He proceeds to the tree, partakes, and then we read:
“And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy;” – 1 Nephi 8:12
Even though so much has changed in the last 2600 years, there are some things that are still the exact same. We want to be happy. Isn’t that so much of what motivates us, for better or for worse?
What I mean is, often we make decisions – even if they are bad decisions – because on some level we think that the decision will result in happiness.
Lehi was in a dark and dreary waste. He was feeling depressed and discouraged. Then, he saw a tree with bright fruit. A beacon of hope in a dark world. This fruit, he came to find, brought him exceedingly great joy.
There are times when the world we live in may seem like a “dark and dreary waste.” It can be easy to keep wandering around aimlessly, depressed in the gloom.
But we don’t have to be. There is hope. We can follow Lehi’s example. We can pray. Then, when we do, we can look around and notice the joy that the Savior is offering to us. We can take time to notice the tree of life, and then change the bearings and courses of our lives so that we will be able to partake of it.
Of course, in discussing this metaphor, obtaining the fruit of the tree might be a “life-time quest.” But I think that if we will open our hearts and eyes to it, we have more of it in our lives right now than we realize.
Even now, on a daily basis, how do we invite love, warmth, joy, and light into our lives? We call upon the Lord. We recognize Him. We look forward with hope. Instead of focusing on the dark and dreary waste, we can look to the tree of life with hope in our hearts – knowing that soon we’ll be able to partake of it and experience “exceedingly great joy.”