Context and General Information
- Nephi testifies that the Lord has shown the prophets concerning the people of Jerusalem – these prophecies are recorded in the plates of brass.
- Nephi taught his brethren what was written in the plates of brass so they could know concerning the Lord.
- Nephi read many things that were written in the books of Moses.
- To persuade his brethren to believe in Jesus Christ, Nephi read that which was written by Isaiah.
- Nephi applied the scriptures to himself for his profit and learning and encouraged his brethren to do the same.
- Nephi spake to his brethren: Hear ye the words of the prophet.
Our Profit and Learning
I’m not exactly sure when 1 Nephi 19 was written – somewhere between 588-570 BC. I bring this up because sometimes I think that all of these chapters are like diary entries – just happening as they happen.
However, as I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon lately, I keep remembering that this is an abridgment. The small plates of Nephi are an abridgment that the Lord commanded him to make. Most likely, Nephi is writing this record long after the events occurred.
Not only that, but sometimes a lot of time passed between events in chapters. (Like obtaining the brass plates, for example). In fact, the first 18 chapters of 1 Nephi are marked with events – leaving Jerusalem, obtaining the plates, returning to the tent of Lehi, getting Ishmael and his family, Lehi’s Dream, the broken bow, traveling in the wilderness, building a ship, crossing the sea.
Now, after chapter 18, we don’t have as many events, but we have teachings. The families of Nephi and his brothers and sisters have all grown. There are people to teach! This is what he taught them:
“Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things; and it came to pass that I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old.” – 1 Nephi 19:22
Nephi taught from the scriptures so that they could know the doings of the Lord. And why is that important? Well, here’s a good reason why:
“3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” – John 17:3
Nephi taught the scriptures, so that his people could know the doings of the Lord. And knowing the doings of the Lord will help us – not to perish, but to have eternal life.
“And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” – 1 Nephi 19:23
Today, I’d like to do something different. I’m going to pick out a few key words and study what those words really mean and how they can hopefully help each of us.
The dictionary tells us the definition of persuade:
“Persuade transitive verb: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action
2 : to plead with : URGE” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
I have to admit – the concept of persuasion has been super intriguing to me lately. I think it’s because 1) I’m a parent, and it’s my job to do a lot of teaching and persuading. 2) Persuading sometimes gets a bad rap. 3) We are always being persuaded. When we understand the mechanics of persuasion, we can have better discernment.
I’m going to start with point two right now – persuading gets a bad rap. It’s kind of funny – even as I wrote point 1—that I’m a parent and I have to be persuasive—I felt a little reticent to write that. I don’t want to come off as manipulative.
But that’s the thing. Persuasion does not have to be manipulation. Persuasion is simply pleading with. Urging. Moving by argument (not a fight, but logic), entreaty, or expostulation to a belief.
Parents must persuade their children to eat dinner. Parents must persuade their children to go to sleep. Parents must persuade their children to do their chores, homework, and brush their teeth.
This isn’t a power-hungry move for control. It is because we are deemed with the responsibility to raise our children in such a way that they can be stewards of themselves one day.
Persuasion is simply the act of moving another to a belief, position, or course of action.
I think that the reason that persuasion gets a bad rap is because there are plenty of people and other entities persuading us to do bad things! Persuasion isn’t the enemy – we have to discern the belief, position, or course of action that we are being moved to! The belief, position, or course of action (and the perhaps the person giving it) is the potential enemy!
Of course, there are times when people use bad methods to persuade others. There are times when people lie and manipulate in order to move another to a belief. Sometimes we even use these bad methods to move to a good belief. Of course, this is a terrible practice. When we use bad persuasion tactics, we will often have bad results.
Not only that, but sometimes people confuse persuasion with compulsion. Compulsion is the act of compelling.
“Compel transitive verb:to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly
Hunger compelled him to eat.
The general was compelled to surrender.
2 : to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure
Public opinion compelled her to sign the bill.” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Now – this is a problem. When we persuade, we don’t drive or urge forcefully. This is Satan’s way! When we persuade, we shouldn’t use so much overwhelming pressure that the person we are trying to persuade can’t think or feel for themselves. We shouldn’t use guilt trips and other below-the-belt tactics to compel another to do what we want them to do (even if what we want them to do is good!)
As the Lord explained:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42
We shouldn’t use our power – as parents, priesthood holders, or whatever power it is we have – in a way that compels and forces. Instead, we should persuade with gentleness, meekness, and genuine love. We should be kind, have knowledge, and teach without hypocrisy and guile.
Nephi tells us in 1 Nephi 19:23 that he is trying to persuade us—to believe in the Lord our Redeemer. This is a good cause, and Nephi uses good tactics. What he is doing is a-okay.
Again to the dictionary:
“Liken transitive verb: to represent as similar : COMPARE” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Not only did Nephi read the scriptures, he likened the scriptures unto himself. In other words, he compared what was happening to the scriptures to his own life.
We know that Nephi derived power from likening the scriptures. Nephi urges his brothers to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban by saying: let us be strong like unto Moses;…” (See 1 Nephi 4:2.) Later on, when building the ship, Nephi reiterates the story of Moses and the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt – Nephi asks his brothers “And now, if the Lord has such great power , and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (See 1 Nephi 17:51.)
Nephi knew that he could trust in God because of the witnesses of the prophets. He knew that the scriptures were more than old books to be read. He knew that the scriptures were not simply myths or tales. Nephi knew that if he studied the scriptures and really compared them to his own life, then he would be able to apply the wisdom found in the scriptures to strengthen his own life.
We now sing about Nephi being courageous. Likening the scriptures to himself is what helped to bring him the faith that could give him the courage to get the brass plates, make a bow, build a boat, and sail across the sea.
We can do the same – we can take the time to really liken the scriptures. We can compare what we read to our own lives. As we do so, the Lord will teach us how they can apply to us and empower us.
Once more to the dictionary:
“Profit noun:: a valuable return : GAIN
2 : the excess of returns over expenditure in a transaction or series of transactions” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
(There are other definitions that I didn’t include – as they are all about money and ratios…not super applicable.)
Again, profit can be a loaded word. We know that the Lord doesn’t want us to be selfish or seek to “get gain.” And yet, Nephi uses the word “profit.” I suppose we need to be sure to understand what is meant here. This is why I really like the definition above.
When we study and liken the scriptures, we make a transaction. We give our faith and time to the Lord, and then He will give us a return (wisdom, knowledge, courage, etc.) This is the profit of which Nephi speaks.
This is a great deal for us! We invest a little time and a little trust and we gain—a testimony! strength! courage! hope! wisdom! healing! Indeed, a valuable return. Indeed, a profit.
This post is getting really long, so I’ll end it now…Nephi closes chapter 19 with an invitation. I hope that we will consider everything that Nephi has written up to this point and then take him up on his invitation as we read the chapters of Isaiah that Nephi quoted.
Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.” – 1 Nephi 19:24.
Truly the prophets persuade us to believe in Christ. As we liken these scriptures to ourselves, we will profit. We will gain faith, hope, and the courage we need to endure.