Personal Priesthood Responsibility – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Personal Priesthood Responsibility, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2003 Priesthood Session of General Conference.

***

I don’t remember this talk a single bit. I’m not a bearer of the Priesthood. Personally, I’m more than okay with that. Usually, I don’t really read much of the Priesthood talks. I kind of feel they are directed for another group. But since I’m trying to read all of these talks, I decided to include the ones addressed at Priesthood sessions.

This talk is pretty self explanatory (based on its title). It’s about the personal responsibility that priesthood bearers have. Today, I’m just going to ponder a few things from the talk. This might seem a little disjointed. I hope you don’t mind.

The Strength of our Faith

President Nelson stated:

“…[T]he strength of the faith within each of us is developed individually, not as a group.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel like the recent changes of our church meetings reflects what President Nelson taught in this quote. We can’t rely on the church, the Relief Society, or our Priesthood quorums to give us faith. We must develop our own faith. Obviously, I do think that we can learn from others. We can be taught by others. We are blessed by the testimonies of others. But ultimately, we must do the work of increasing our own faith.

President Nelson taught:

“Only as an individual can you develop a firm faith in God and a passion for personal prayer. Only as an individual can you keep the commandments of God. Only as an individual can you repent. Only as an individual can you qualify for the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.” – Russell M. Nelson

How can we increase our own faith? Experiment on it! Try living the gospel. Pray. Keep the commandments. Repent. Search the scriptures. Read good books, magazines, blogs. Increase our knowledge and then we apply that knowledge. Listen to the little nudges of the Spirit, and then trust in God!

Our Most Important Responsibility

President Nelson stated:

“Throughout life you will have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Many of these are temporary and will be relinquished upon your release. (You probably won’t object to your release from a call to pull weeds at the welfare farm.) But you never will be released from responsibilities related to your personal and family development.” – Russell M. Nelson

family in sedona

I know that this quote resonates with me because it means so much to me. It is so easy to get caught up in all of our duties and responsibilities. I don’t want to suggest that many of the “other” hats we wear are not also important. But I do think that it is so easy to overlook ur most important responsibilities – our personal and family development!

I know it’s easy for me as a mother to feel guilty sometimes when I spend time working out or doing things for “me.” Yet these are vitally important not only to my own spiritual and physical health, but also to the health of my family!

It is easy to get so busy with our callings, jobs, hobbies, etc that we can overlook the simple needs of our own children and spouse.

We will never be released from these relationships. They matter more than the many other things we will do in our lives. Of course, it’s not an “either / or” kind of a thing. The Spirit can guide us to understand what the needful thing is for each of us to do. The Spirit also will help us to understand that the needful thing for us to do will change from day to day and season to season. But it is important for us to keep the perspective that we will never be “released” from the responsibilities related to personal and family development..

Living True to Personal Promptings and Commandments

President Nelson:

“We are to be true and faithful and live by every principle and doctrine that He has given to us. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge.” – Russell M. Nelson

This last part is really standing out to me today. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge. I want to think about that for a moment. How might I compromise revelations or commandments given to me???

I found a definition of the word compromise – to make a shameful or disreputable concession.

Do we ever do that? Make a shameful concession of the revelations that have been committed to our charge? And if so, why do we do that?

I’ll give you an example. Forgive me if this has already come up in other blog posts recently. It’s been on my mind a lot. In my Patriarchal Blessing, I’m warned – to keep the Word of Wisdom. Now, I don’t go out and drink alcohol. I don’t drink what we consider “hot drinks” (coffee, etc.). I don’t smoke. I don’t use illicit drugs. Whatever. I’m not special—there are a lot of people like me. I’m keeping the word of wisdom, right?

Well…maybe and maybe not.

I have to admit, even though I have studied the Word of Wisdom, I haven’t always done the best to pay attention to the majority of it!!! I have always found a way to justify eating plenty of meat daily. I have always found a way to justify not eating many fruits and veg. I have always found a way to justify treats (it’s my birthday, it’s Halloween, it’s national chocolate chip cookie day!!!)

Recently I have started counting macros. I want to lose some weight. I have followed a pretty conventional path as far as macro counting goes. I was consuming about 1 gram of protein per POUND of lean muscle mass. In other words, each day, I was supposed to be consuming 136 grams of protein.

That’s a lot of protein.

It’s really hard to consume that much protein without eating meat. So I was eating meat.

Actually, it’s hard to consume that much protein without eating a lot of meat. So I was eating a lot of meat.

I was doing this for a few months, and things were going well enough physically. But then, it started getting really hot outside, and I was starting to have issues with my heart – shortness of breath. Dizziness. Etc. It wasn’t going away, and I set up an appointment with my doctor.

In the early morning before my doctor appointment, I was even having chest pain. What do you do when it is 3 AM, and you are dizzy, short of breath, and having chest pain? Bargain with God!

I felt frustrated. What should I be doing?! Why was my heart acting up?! Should I be eating more protein? Less protein? Saturated Fat? Low Fat? Keto? Paleo? Vegan??? What was I supposed to do? There is so much conflicting advice. So many people have said so many different things. The still small voice spoke an impression to my Heart – God only said ONE thing.

I realized, I didn’t need to listen to all of these other doctors, scientists, etc. I just needed to put my trust in the commandments of God! It didn’t need to be a mystery! And I knew it. I have known the Word of Wisdom my whole life. And then, when I received my patriarchal blessing, I was given an even clearer emphasis/warning on this revelation – Always follow the Word of Wisdom!

Yet I had compromised this revelation and commandment committed to my charge. I vowed to keep the W.o.W from that point on. And I have. Oh…by the way – it only took a few days of keeping the word of wisdom: dialing down the protein, the calories, and amping up the veggies, fruits, with a backbone of grains…and guess what – no more dizziness. No more palpitations. No chest pain. And I’m losing weight really easily now. I’m at the beginning of this journey, but pretty excited to see where it is headed.

But the point is – we do this! We compromise our personal revelations and commandments. Sometimes I think that we accidentally downplay how important these things are because we usually call them: promptings or impressions. But they are personal revelations and commandments! If we don’t follow through with the promptings, impressions, personal revelations, and personal commandments we receive, then we cannot expect to be led by His Spirit in the future!

I’m grateful for this reminder. Sometimes it is scary to follow a personal prompting, revelation, commandment, or impression. Why is it scary? Well, I guess because it’s an act of faith. Was that the Spirit or was it just me? … often goes through my head. I let myself doubt my impressions, then I ignore them. Or allow myself to be distracted. And then, I miss the opportunity, the blessing, the protection, or whatever it was the the Lord was offering.

I really want to stop doing this!!!

***

Well, this is another long post, no matter how much I try to shorten them. I’m so thankful for the Prophet. Though today’s talk wasn’t really addressed to the women of the church, there were a few things that I gleaned from the talk. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson is a man who has worked hard to study and learn more about the Priesthood he holds. I’m grateful to know that he honors it and doesn’t abuse his position in the church. I’m grateful, also, to know that we have the priesthood on earth now. I have been blessed by this great power in my life.

The Liahona Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

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

Context and General Information

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

The Liahona – How It Works

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

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

Nephi explained:

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

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

Faith

sunrise in Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Diligence

waves of the sea

Okay. Dictionary time…

Diligence: Careful or persistent work or effort.

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

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

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

Heavenly Father directs us:

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, we receive direction a bit at a time.

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

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

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

Heed

robin

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

Time to wrap this up.

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

Nephi and His Brethren – 1 Nephi 15:11-36

You can read 1 Nephi 15:11-36 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After seeing the vision, Nephi goes to his father’s tent – where his brothers are arguing.
  • Nephi teaches his brothers what the symbols of the dream meant, and what Lehi’s prophecies meant.

Nephi and His Brethren

We just spent studying 1 Nephi 11, 12, 13, and 14. These chapters are all comprised of Nephi’s experience with learning the meaning of what Lehi meant by his dream and then his following prophecies.

After Nephi asked his brothers why they hadn’t prayed, he then proceeds to answer their questions. Here is a quick synopsis of what he taught them.

  • The House of Israel was compared to an olive tree.
  • In the latter days, the seed of Lehi will have dwindled down because of unbelief and sin. Many generations after Christ manifested himself to the people of earth, he would come to the Gentiles and then from the Gentiles to the remnants of Lehi, Nephi’s and Laman and Lemuel’s children and also to remnants of all the House of Israel.
  • The remnants of Lehi’s family will know that they are covenant people of the Lord in the latter days, and they will come to a knowledge of their Redeemer.
  • The people who are brought back into remembrance of their covenants will be like the branches of the olive tree – grafted back into the true olive tree.
  • None of this will happen until after the Savior is rejected by the House of Israel and then the Gentiles have scattered Israel.
  • Once Israel is restored, they won’t be confounded again.

Now, after telling his brothers this, they were pacified. I guess it made a little bit of sense to them. Then, they asked Nephi what his father’s dream meant. He explained:

  • The tree is a representation of the tree of life.
  • The iron rod is the word of God.
  • The river of filthy water was filthiness and there was an awful gulf separating the wicked and the righteous – this was a representation of hell.

We have studied this in the past few posts, but just to get our brains going, let’s ask ourselves – why would Nephi know and understand Lehi’s prophecies? He was the younger brother. Why would he have information and understanding that his elder brethren didn’t have???

Saguaro at Night

Nephi humbly went to the Lord. He had already spent a lot of time pondering. He was trying to do the work to figure out this mystery. Nephi pondered and he prayed. With sincerity, Nephi asked God to understand the meaning of what Lehi taught, and  he made himself worthy of being taught by the Spirit.

Because of Nephi’s manner in trying to understand Lehi’s dream and prophecy, what followed? An amazing vision! He not only learned the interpretation of the dream, but what it really meant for him and for all of humanity. Nephi saw the Savior. He experienced God’s love. And then he bore witness of it for the rest of his life. He became the prophet. He became the leader of his new land.

Instead of facing his inability to understand what his dad meant with frustration, Nephi was patient and searched. This searching resulted in an experience that changed his life in a positive way forever.

Now…

Think of Nephi’s brothers. Like Nephi, they didn’t understand what Lehi’s dream or prophecies were all about.

Unlike Nephi, they didn’t go and humbly seek the answers. They didn’t pray. They didn’t turn to the Lord.

Instead, they went to their father’s tent and argued.

They were still arguing when Nephi had arrived. Nephi asked them why they didn’t ask, and they just said because God wouldn’t tell them.

They weren’t humble. They weren’t faithful. They didn’t have real intent. So they never even asked. They just got upset.

Nephi was able to calm them down a little bit, and then he explained what the dream meant! So – everything was hunky dory, right?

But we can see the difference between their experience and Nephi’s. Yes, Nephi taught them, and yes they were even inspired by it. But this wasn’t the same thing. They hadn’t truly sought, so they never truly found – or had the same kind of life changing witness that Nephi had. Even though they learned the meaning of the dream, it never really stuck with them.

Eventually Nephi’s brothers will defect and rebel – becoming completely cut off from God or from their religion…Understanding the meaning of Lehi’s visions or prophecies didn’t make much of a difference in their lives.

***

This makes me think of something Elder Bednar said in General Conference:

“If all you or I know about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel is what other people teach or tell us, then the foundation of our testimony of Him and His glorious latter-day work is built upon sand. We cannot rely exclusively upon or borrow gospel light and knowledge from other people—even those whom we love and trust.” – David A. Bednar

It seems that all Nephi’s brothers knew about Jesus Christ and His gospel (not yet restored at the time, but the same gospel!) what what other people told them. They knew what their father told them. They knew what Nephi told them. And even then, did they even really know? I’m not sure. It just seems that it went in one ear and out the other. In any case, their experiences with the Lord were limited to the words of others.

So, Nephi’s brethren’s experiences were limited to the words of Lehi and Nephi, and – at least in this chapter – his brethren were pacified. But they were not converted.

As Elder Bednar states, their testimonies were built on sand. Instead of relying only on what their father and brother said, Nephi’s brethren needed to go to the Lord themselves. They needed to have their own experiences. They needed to seek, ask, knock. Recall what the Lord pleaded:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

The Lord wants us to understand. He wants to reveal to us. He wants us to experience His love, light, and joy. He doesn’t expect us to go through our lives in darkness and misunderstanding. The Lord will reveal to us, if we, like Nephi, will go to Him with faith and real intent.

Asking, seeking, knocking – it can be hard work. We shouldn’t think it is just some easy, blithe thing to communicate with God. We need to search, to ponder, to pray. We need to meditate. We need to fast. We need to work. Later in the Book of Mormon, Alma shares how he gained knowledge and testimony:

“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” – Alma 5:45-46

One thing I feel like I keep learning as I study the Book of Mormon is that Nephi wasn’t inherently special. He wasn’t given special treatment or favor by the Lord. Nephi was a normal dude. He wasn’t a mythological demigod. He wasn’t Hercules. He was normal! He had the same advantages and access to God and His power as anyone else in his family did.

This isn’t to say that Nephi was not a good guy. Because he was! But Nephi is an example of the grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Nephi is an example of how when we will humble ourselves and do what God has asked us to do (ask, seek, knock!), then we will be blessed and strengthened. When we exercise our faith, we will experience tender mercies that will make us mighty to deliverance.

It’s important to understand this about Nephi because then, we can apply it to ourselves. We, too, can have experiences with the Lord as Nephi did. Of course, our experiences will be different. But they will come. We can gain testimony. We can have our own relationship with the Lord. We can be strengthened.

So – it makes me ask myself, am I being like Nephi or like his brethren? Am I asking the Lord for guidance and help in my life – with sincerity? Or am I casual in my communication with God? Am I seeking my own experiences, or do I expect understanding and help without any effort of my own?

How Is It??? AGAIN!!! – 1 Nephi 15:10

You can read 1 Nephi 15:10-11 here.

Context and General Information

  • 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!

snowdrops
It felt like the right time for a picture.

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.

Back in Lehi’s Tent – 1 Nephi 15:1-9

You can read 1 Nephi 15:1-10 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • 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.

Nephi shares:

“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.

Texas Sage
Random Picture of Texas Sage…Because I like Flower Pics…

Two – Lehi did Speak Things that were Hard to Understand

We read:

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

and

“Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 4:7

and

“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

and

“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

WHAT?!?!?!?!

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.

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

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

Context and General Information

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

Look! And I Looked..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Nephi looks.

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

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

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

How does the Spirit answer?

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

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

And Nephi looks.

What can we learn from this?

One – The Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

Two – Accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Peter, the Savior continues:

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

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

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

But He will not force them on us.

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

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

What are We Doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A virgin bearing a child in her arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for looking at looking with me today.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Understanding the Mysteries of God 2 – What the Lord Will Do – 1 Nephi 10:17-19

You can read 1 Nephi 10:17-19 here.

Context and General Information

  • After listening to the vision/dream and then prophesies and testimony of his father, Lehi, Nephi wants to understand the things of which his father spoke.
Prickly Pear Blossoms
Yet another pretty, but unrelated, picture. Enjoy!

Understanding the Mysteries of God

In Part one, we studied how our part in understanding the mysteries of God. The primary things that we must do include:

  • Desire
  • Diligently Seek

Understand

Before talking about the role the Lord plays in our understanding of God’s mysteries, I think that we need to understand what it means to understand.

I realize that the scripture we are reading today doesn’t use the word “understand.” Instead, Nephi is desirous to “see, hear, and know” the words of his father. Additionally, Nephi doesn’t use the word “understand” later on, but instead promises us that if we will diligently seek, then we will fine, and the “mysteries of God shall be unfolded.”

I’m using the word understanding of my own accord, but I feel like it is the right word. Several times as I’ve been writing this blog post, I’ve wanted to use the word: know. I’ve wanted to say, for example, To know the mysteries of God… But then I keep feeling like “knowing” isn’t quite the word I want to use. It’s a nice word, but not really precise.

Here’s a reason why I’m thinking about it. In the Book of Mosiah, Abinadi is teaching to the priests of King Noah. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that they are wicked.

However, we have to remember they are priests. They know the commandments. They know what is said in the scriptures. But they refuse to apply these scriptures and commandments in their own lives. Abinadi later says to them:

“Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise.  …” – Mosiah 12:27

The priests of Noah claim to preach the law of Moses. They claim to know what God’s will is, but they live at odds with His word. They do not understand!

The priests of Noah weren’t the only ones with this problem.

The most obvious example of this is the Jews who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s coming. The Pharisees knew the gospel. They knew the prophecies. They knew the law. Yet, as Isaiah said:

“…Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.’ – Isaiah 6:9

What is the point of knowing if you will not understand!?!?!?!

Thankfully, Heavenly Father has given us a way to understand His mysteries. If we do our part of desiring to know more and diligently seeking, then He will help us understand through the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost

The thing is – when we do our part, when we desire and when we seek, we are qualifying for the Holy Ghost. Nephi teaches:

“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.

For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:17-19

I know that I spent a whole blog post writing about the things that we must do in order to know and understand the mysteries of God. But we have to understand that we can’t understand the mysteries of God without the Holy Ghost.

Yes, we can desire, and yes we can search. But if we don’t have the third ingredient – which is the power of the Holy Ghost, then we may come to know the scriptures and even the mysteries of God, but I don’t think that we will understand them.

The Savior taught the disciples that it is the Holy Ghost that would testify of Him:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: – John 15:26

Isn’t this interesting – Christ was speaking to the apostles. It was the Savior! Jesus Christ Himself! And yes, He bore testimony of Himself through His words and His deeds, but here – the Savior teaches that it is the Holy Ghost that will testify of Him. This is what will leave an imprint on their hearts.

Elder Robert D. Hales also taught about the Holy Ghost:

Personal revelation is essential, but it is only one part of the work of the Holy Ghost. As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father.6 He teaches us “the peaceable things of the kingdom”7 and causes us to “abound in hope.”8 He “leadeth [us] to do good … [and] to judge righteously.”9 He gives “to every man [and woman] … a [spiritual] gift … that all may be profited thereby.”10 He “giveth [us] knowledge”11 and “bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance.”12 Through the Holy Ghost, we “may be sanctified”13 and receive “a remission of [our] sins.”14 He is the “Comforter,” the same who was “promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples.”15Robert D. Hales

It is the Holy Ghost that will testify to us, and when He does, we will gain understanding. We will feel comfort and hope. Even if we are being corrected, we will be consumed with the Love of God and more understanding. The Holy Ghost will witness of the truth, and this truth lights our minds with understanding.

In the Book of Moroni, we read:

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” – Moroni 10:5

I love this scripture. I know that if you are a latter-day saint, then you associate this scripture with knowing the Book of Mormon is true. And yes, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon if you ask in faith.

However, I love to look at this scripture alone because it succinctly teaches us about one of the roles of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost teaches us the truth of ALL things. He will help us to know the mysteries of God. He will help us to know how to apply them in our lives. He will give us truth on any and every subject – if we will go to the Lord in desire and diligently seeking.

We can know God’s mysteries – from something as broad as understanding the scattering and gathering of Israel – down to something very specific and personal like where to live. The Holy Ghost will shed light on the truth. He is not a fortune teller. It isn’t a crystal ball we gaze into. We must do the work, but we will be guided on our paths if we will seek to know His mysteries and qualify for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

I’m grateful for Nephi and his example. He didn’t know the mysteries of God. He wasn’t born with this innate knowledge. But he knew that he could find it. And He did – through his desire, his diligent seeking, and through the power of the Holy Ghost.