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

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

Context and General Information

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

Nephi Petitions the Lord

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

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

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

Nephi’s requests

We read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sunny phoenix february day

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

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

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

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

Context and General Information

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

Praising God in the Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smooth sailing – both literally and metaphorically.

But only for a moment.

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

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

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

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

His situation really doesn’t sound fun.

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

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

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

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

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

Storm at Sea
Storm at Sea, by Marco Ricci

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

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

The Psalm of Nephi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two – Nephi Remembers God
Nephi states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

The Lord Did Suffer It – 1 Nephi 18:11-16

You can read 1 Nephi 18:11 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi because he had spoken to them with much soberness earlier.
  • Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi with cords and treated him with harshness.
  • The Lord “suffered it” – that Nephi would be bound this time.

This Time, Nephi Suffers

One particular concept is really standing out to me as I study this block of scriptures. In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.” – 1 Nephi 18:11, emphasis added

This isn’t the first time that Nephi has been hurt by his brothers.

Orchid Tree Flower
Sometimes you just need a random picture of an orchid tree bloom.

One
In 1 Nephi 3, after attempting to get the plates of brass from Laban, Nephi and his brothers lost all of their wealth. They nearly lost their lives. Laman and Lemuel were angry and started to beat Nephi and Sam with a rod.

As Laman and Lemuel were smiting Nephi and Sam an angel stops them and promises that the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands (which is exactly what happened).

Two
In 1 Nephi 7, after Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam persuaded Ishmael and his family to leave Jerusalem and go with Lehi’s family to a promised land, Laman and Lemuel decide to rebel.

Nephi angered Laman and Lemuel because he spoke the words he was constrained (by the Spirit) to speak. He reminded Laman and Lemuel that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and that if they went back to Jerusalem they would perish along with it, but they were free to do as they chose.

Laman and Lemuel didn’t like what Nephi said, so they tied him up with the intention to let him die in the desert. This time, Nephi prayed:

“But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.

18 And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.” – 1 Nephi 7:17-18

So – for a second time, Nephi’s life was jeopardized by his brothers, and the Lord saved him from death. (By the way, we should note that saving Nephi’s life in this situation also saved Laman’s and Lemuel’s lives.)

Three
After years of journeying in the wilderness, after the Brass Plates, getting Ishmael’s family, the vision of the tree of life, and the Nephi’s broken bow, Ishmael died. I can only imagine that this was a really difficult experience for everyone – in both Lehi’s and Ishmael’s family.

I would imagine that the threat of dying in the desert was always there, but now – after Ishmael died – I’m guessing that Lehi’s and Ishmael’s family were confronted with their mortality and the very real threat posed by the journey they were taking.

The daughters of Ishmael started to mourn, and this mourning turned to murmuring. Laman and Lemuel took advantage of this opportunity conspire against Nephi and Lehi. They suggested murdering their own father and brother in the wilderness.

If you really stop to think about it, it’s insane, but Laman and Lemuel’s insanity isn’t the point of this blog post. This time, we don’t have a record of any violence happening to Nephi, other than the fact that Laman and Lemuel stirred up the hearts of the others to anger. So – they were thinking about it. Perhaps they were even plotting the death. Who knows.

What we do know is “the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly…” (See 1 Nephi 16:38). They repented and stopped with their crazy plans.

Four
When building the boat, Laman and Lemuel refused to help Nephi. He tried to rally up their help, but they just got angry. We read:

“And now it came to pass that when I had spoken these words they were angry with me, and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea; and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.” – 1 Nephi 17:48

The Lord empowered Nephi to get out of this situation by physically shocking his brothers. Like with an electrical shock. This worked with Laman and Lemuel just long enough for them to help build a boat.

***
So now, let’s go back to 1 Nephi 18 – and think about that again:

“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.” – 1 Nephi 18:11, emphasis added

Now, when Nephi is tied up on the ship while they are sailing on the open ocean, the Lord didn’t send an angel. He didn’t loosen the bands. He didn’t speak to Nephi’s brothers. He didn’t “shock” Laman and Lemuel through Nephi. Instead, “suffered it” to happen. Meaning, he allowed Nephi to be tied up on that boat in the middle of a raging storm.

We read why – “…that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.”

And what was that word?

“And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.” – 1 nephi 2:21

When Nephi had been bound earlier by his brothers – he warned them that if they rebelled against God, then they would perish. (See 1 Nephi 7:15.)

Lehi had expressed his fears to Laman and Lemuel after having the vision of the tree of life. He worried that they would be cast off forever because in the dream they had refused to take hold of the iron rod and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Lehi exhorted them to listen to his words and turn to the Lord.

After hearing about Lehi’s dream, Nephi turned to the Lord for help in understanding what it meant. Laman and Lemuel, on the other hand, started to argue. Later, Nephi joined his brothers in his father’s tent – only to find that they had been arguing about his father’s prophecies.

Nephi asks them

“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?” – 1 Nephi 15:10

When Nephi asked his brothers for help in building the ship, they refused. He spoke to them with the energy of his soul, and they got pretty angry. They tried to cast him into the sea. The Lord filled Nephi with his power and then commanded Nephi to stretch forth his hand.

When Nephi stretched out his hand, Laman and Lemuel were shocked, they knew that God was with him and that God had commanded him to build a ship. So – they should be able to believe everything else that both Lehi and Nephi had testified to them concerning the wicked – that those who rebel against God will be cut off.

But they forgot. They refused to believe. Whatever it was, Laman and Lemuel weren’t having it. And this time, the Lord allowed Nephi to suffer so that Laman and Lemuel would see that everything Lehi and Nephi had been saying before was true – that if they rebel, they would be cut off. (And it was this fear of death, that finally got them to repent.)

***
I’ve taken a long time to get to the real point, but for now it is to point out that Sometimes the Lord lets us suffer. He let Nephi suffer on the boat for days – completely exposed to the elements. Can you even imagine it?

Of course, we can rest assured that the Lord lets us suffer for a good reason. He isn’t fickle. He isn’t forgetting about us. He has a plan for all of His children. This is why there are times when He steps in and provides a miracle. Other times, He seems to be “asleep” as the storm rages all around us.

Regardless of what the Lord does – whether he delivers us or “suffers it,” we can know – just as Nephi did – that there is a good reason for it. In Nephi’s case, this was a real example, a living object lesson on what the Lord has been teaching about the wicked – that those who rebel will be cut off and perish.

It wouldn’t be long before Laman and Lemuel would be cut off from the Lord. Because Heavenly Father loves them, He warned them. He warned them in several different ways. Heavenly Father tried to speak in a language that Laman and Lemuel would understand – from an angel, to a miracle, to their father’s voice, to His own voice, to a physical shock, and now the raging sea. Later on, when the Lord cuts off Laman and Lemuel, He will not cut them off due to their ignorance. They will rebel.

Essentially, they will cut themselves off from the Lord.

So – allowing Nephi to remain tied up on the ship was a merciful act – both by the Lord and by Nephi. I’m sure that this also served as a good reminder to Nephi to be faithful to God. Though Nephi suffered, there was purpose in it.

Nephi’s experience wasn’t easy, but in the end Nephi was okay, and the Lord’s will was accomplished.

It Was not after the Manner of Men – 1 Nephi 18:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 18:1-4 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel worshipped the Lord. They also helped Nephi with building the boat.
  • The ship was not worked “after the manner of men,” but Nephi built the boat in the way that God instructed him.
  • Nephi went to the mount often to pray. The Lord showed him great things.
  • When they were finished building the ship – according to the word of the Lord – they all beheld that it was good, the workmanship was fine. And they were all humbled before the Lord.

It Was Not After the Manner of Men

In the past, I haven’t usually cared much about Nephi’s boat – how was it built? How did it get across the ocean? etc. Maybe it would be more interesting to me if I knew anything about boats, but for me, personally, I have always figured that if I needed to understand certain specificities, then Nephi would have included that information.

However, there is some information that he included:

“Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” – 1 Nephi 18:2

We don’t know what kind of boat that Nephi built, but what we do know is that it was not built after the manner of men. The Lord showed him how to do it.

So let’s think about Nephi. He had been traveling in the wilderness for years. He made it to Bountiful. He had received instruction to build a boat. He made bellows and started making tools (this probably took a few months – to kill an animal, prepare the hide, make tools, etc.). So much of what Nephi had experienced in the wilderness was new – including this situation – building a boat.

And I would imagine that Nephi hadn’t really seen anything like this before. Yes, he had travelled along the shores of the Red Sea, but they knew that it was the Red Sea. They knew that on the other side of the Red Sea was Egypt and Africa. But by the time that they reached Bountiful, they were not on the Red Sea anymore. They called this “Irreantum,” which was “many waters.”

They were on the borders of the Arabian Sea, which is a part of the Indian Ocean. Many waters, indeed!

And now, Nephi has to build a boat. There is no real reason for us to think that he had ever built a boat before. The boats used on inland seas (the Sea of Galilee, for example) were not quite the same as a boat that would have been needed to cross the ocean.

The Phoenicians were known for sailing and voyaging, they had better ships that could withstand more waters, but still, they primarily were in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea (as far as I know).

And how familiar would Nephi really be with those types of boats? They would probably be a faint memory. I mean, we know that Nephi was very young (nevertheless large in stature) when he left Jerusalem. So what did he really know about boats? What was his concept of a boat or a ship? I can’t imagine.

And then he got the assignment to build a boat.

Nephi had full confidence in the Lord, and he began to follow his instructions – and all he really shares with us is that this boat was “not after the manner of men.”

Okay…so the real thing that I want to think about is how often we face this in our lives. And are we as humble or faithful to accept God’s way of doing things – rather than our way or the way of those around us?

In late 2006, I was a young (divorced) single mother of two. I had been dating people off and on. I had a desire to be married again, but I wasn’t going to rush into anything – so I was just kind of doing my best without putting it all into my own hands (does that make sense???).

Anyway, one day I was meeting with my Bishop, and he had a suggestion for me – that I “give the Lord something to work with, and go online.” It was not the suggestion that I was expecting, and I wasn’t really all that excited to follow it.

In a way, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Why go online? Why not meet someone the normal way – in person?!?!

But a few days later, I felt a prompting, just to obey for obedience’s sake.

What followed was my meeting this guy online. He didn’t live in my state. I didn’t actually think anything of it. I didn’t think that we would really get into any kind of relationship. I just read his blog and thought it was funny.

But one email led to another. Which led to another. Which eventually led to phone calls and falling in love. In fact, I fell in love with him before I ever met him.

Homey and Me
Homey and Me

We met. We got engaged. We got married. And now we’ve been married for 12 years, he adopted my two daughters and then we’ve had two more children.

The thing is, this didn’t happen a “normal” or “conventional” way. The Lord helped me through my problems in his own way…it was “curious workmanship,” for sure.

But this experience taught me something – we can trust the Lord. He will instruct us better than our own wisdom, experiences, or instinct. He sees the end from the beginning.

When I first met Homey (my husband) online, he was really cool, and I remember thinking – this is better than what I would have come up with for myself!. He really was.

And now, 12 years later, I can say the same thing even more emphatically. I have seen how wise the Lord was in letting us meet and bringing us together. I can see how wise the Lord was in letting us meet in such an unconventional way. It has been a strength and blessing for our marriage and lives.

Homey and I met online, fell in love through phone calls and emails in a matter of only two months, and then finally met, got engaged, married, and I moved cross-country within six months from my first email to him. This was not after the manner of men. Yes – there were times we had concerns. But throughout, the Lord guided us and comforted us. The Spirit does not bear false witness, so we could trust the comfort and guidance that He gave to us.

I hate to think what would have happened if I had insisted on doing things a more conventional way. I hate to think what would have happened if I insisted that the Lord did not work a “curious workmanship” in my life that was “not after the manner of men.”

If Nephi had insisted on building a boat in a way that was more familiar to him, no doubt it would have sunk; they wouldn’t have made it to the promised land.

Go To The Mount Oft and Pray

How does this work, though? How do we allow the Lord to work a “curious workmanship” in our own lives?

Well, Nephi gives the answer in his example:

“And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.” – 1 Nephi 18:3

Nephi didn’t have the answers to building this boat. He didn’t have a blueprint. He had the spiritual guidance from the Lord, so he had to stay in a mental state that enabled him to receive such instruction. This was achieved through consistent and thoughtful prayer.

The Lord reveals to us line upon line, precept upon precept. It wouldn’t have been helpful for Nephi to receive every single step of the instructions to build a boat all at once. Nephi did step one, then he received instruction for step two. He did step two, went to the Lord, and received instruction for step three. And so on.

When we are allowing the Lord to work a “curious workmanship” in our lives, we don’t need to get frustrated by the need for constant counsel with God. We don’t need to be frustrated that we don’t know every step. Though it is hard (faith building!) to receive only one step at a time – or to only have the path before us dimly lit – we can do it. We don’t need to see the end from the beginning because we have a God who does see the end from the beginning!

Oh – and another thing. We don’t need to get frustrated with ourselves when we aren’t “successful” after completing the first “step.” We don’t need to think we are making mistakes or lacking faith. We don’t need to think that if we were more faithful, then we would simply be successful right away.

Building the boat was a process. When they finished the boat – it wasn’t because they were finally being faithful for that very last step. All of the instructions and steps leading up to the finishing of the boat weren’t mistakes. It’s not like if they only had more faith, then they would have been able to make the ship in one step in a day.

Often, the “curious workmanship” in our own lives takes on a similar process. Yes we need to be faithful, but faith is what takes us through every step – not only the final step. Instead of getting bogged down when we have to go back up the “mount” to pray for more guidance, we can rest assured that we are on the right path…we just have to keep on keeping on.

We can take comfort in those metaphorical (or maybe even literal) trips to the tops of the mountains – to the trips to the temple – to the trips that take us to our knees so we can be counseled by God and shown great things.

There is so much more that can be considered in these scriptures, but I need to wrap it up right now.

What Nephi did – building a boat not after the manner of men – was pretty hard. But he did it. He didn’t rely on his own genius. He just relied on his own determination to do as the Lord instructed. We know that it worked! We know that Nephi built a boat and when it was finished, everyone saw that it was good! We know that this boat delivered them to the promised land.

Our lives can be hard, too. We may not be building boats, but we often have times in our own lives where we have to put our full trust in the Lord as he directs us to do something that may seem highly unusual. But, like Nephi, when we put our trust in the Lord, we will find comfort and eventual deliverance.

Convinced by the Power of God – 1 Nephi 17:48-55

You can read 1 Nephi 17:48-55 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi finished his “speech” to Laman and Lemuel. They were angry with what he said and wanted to throw him into the depths of the sea. As they came up to him, he commanded them not to touch him – as he was filled with the power of God unto the consuming of his flesh.
  • Nephi then told them not to murmur against their father and to help him build the ship according to God’s commandment.
  • Nephi testifies that he could do anything God commanded him.
  • Nephi reasons that God has the power to make the water into dry ground, why not enough power to teach Nephi how to build a boat?!
  • Nephi confounded his brothers with his testimony.
  • The Lord also told Nephi to stretch out his hand. In so doing, the Lord shocked Laman and Lemuel. Nephi did as instructed. Laman and Lemuel weren’t killed or seriously injured, but they were shaken and then finally convinced that Nephi had been commanded to build a boat and that the Lord would show him how to do it.
  • Laman and Lemuel, after being shocked, wouldn’t touch Nephi for several days. They also fell down to worship Nephi.
  • Nephi wouldn’t suffer Laman and Lemuel to worship him – reminding him that he is their younger brother, they shouldn’t worship him, but they should worship God and honor their parents.

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Convinced by the Power of God

There is something that is really standing out to me today as I read. After Nephi has recounted examples of God’s power from their history and the scriptures, he then makes a conclusion that the Lord – with His great power – will deliver them just as He has delivered so many others.

This line of reasoning didn’t convince Laman and Lemuel of God’s power. It shut them up for a moment, but they needed to physically feel God’s power (they were shocked!) in order to be convinced. They don’t draw upon their past experiences of witnessing God’s power. They won’t remember the times when they have seen an angel, heard the voice of the Lord, or experienced His still, small voice. They refuse to learn from the scriptures and experiences of others. (Remember, Moses and the children of Israel aren’t just “ancient scriptures” to them – these are their forefathers! this is the history of Israel!)

The only way that Laman and Lemuel are convinced of God’s ability to empower Nephi to build a boat is when they are physically shocked.

I can’t say that I’m always the best at remembering and believing. There are times when the Lord has had to hit me with the proverbial frying pan. I can say that these experiences aren’t always the most pleasant. It is just so much easier (in the long run) to have faith!

There are times when life requires a lot of faith from us; there are times when we may be more reliant on the tender mercies of God than others. There are times when, after years of traveling through our own “wilderness,” we are on the shores of the sea, we need to build a boat, we have nearly made it to our “promised lands.” But one last big push must be made. We have to exercise our faith in ways that stretch us.

In these moments, maybe it is helpful to remember Nephi’s words:

“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?” – 1 Nephi 17:51

We have the blessing of hindsight. Nephi’s reasoning why not trust the Lord is right. Nephi knew the Lord was trustworthy – that He would deliver them. And we know that the Lord did deliver Nephi and his brothers. Nephi DID build a boat. And it wasn’t just some dinghy. It carried their family from the Arabian Peninsula to the Americas. It crossed at least two oceans. This boat withstood that terrible storm we will read about in coming chapters.

It worked!

The Lord was powerful enough to instruct Nephi to build a ship that would safely deliver them to the Promised Land.

We know this, and we have countless examples of the Lord’s power working in the lives of His children.

So – if we are having trouble trusting God, then we can ask ourselves the same question: If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot empower me and deliver me?

He can. And He will.

Scripture Power – 1 Nephi 17:23-42

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

Context and General Information

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

Scripture Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nephi reminds his brothers that:

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Is by the Lord that We Are Led – 1 Nephi 17:10-16

You can read 1 Nephi 17:10-16 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • The Lord told Nephi where to go find ore to make tools.
  • Nephi made a bellows out of the skin of beasts to blow the fire. Then, he smote two stones together to make fire.
  • Up to this point, Nephi hadn’t made many fires on the journey in the wilderness. The Lord instructed them not to make fire and made other arrangements for them. He made their food become “sweet” so they didn’t need to cook it.
  • The Lord also promised to be their light in the wilderness. He prepared the way for them. If they kept His commandments, then they would be led toward a promised land. Also, after arriving at the promised land, they would know that it was the Lord that delivered them from destruction. And that He is God.
  • So – Nephi strived to keep the commandments and motivated his brothers to do the same.
  • Nephi made tools out of the ore which he melted out of the rock.

It Is by the Lord that We Are Led

We often say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. And here, we see it again. Even though the Lord works in mysterious ways, the purpose isn’t so mysterious.

So – earlier in chapter 17, Nephi asked the Lord:

” And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” –1 Nephi 17:9

And then we read:

“And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.” – 1 Nephi 17:10

Once Nephi knows where to find the ore, he makes a bellows, and then makes a fire. And then Nephi lets us in on this fact about their journey – a fact that he had hinted at earlier in the chapter:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:12

The Lord commanded them not to make much fire. And if we think back, the only times I guess that they made fire would be the times when they were offering sacrifices of burnt offerings to Him. (See 1 Nephi 2:7,1 Nephi 5:9, 1 Nephi 7:22.)

I am so familiar with the story of Nephi’s journey to the promised land, that I haven’t put much thought into this idea. I’ve always known that the Lord commanded Lehi’s family not to make many fires. And that He would make their meat “sweet” to them – as if it had been cooked. Okay. That’s fine with me. I accept it. If the Lord can cause Manna to come down to the children of Israel while in the wilderness, why wouldn’t he be able to “cook” the food for Lehi and his family?

I’ve never had a problem with this detail. I’ve never had a question about it. I’ve never really put much thought into it.

But maybe it’s good to right now…because I don’t think that the only reason the Lord did this for them is the same as what I assumed in the past.

In the past, I kind of thought that the reason the Lord had them make few fires was for their safety. (And I still think that this was a reason). Hugh Nibley explored this concept in one of his writings. (You can read it here). His ideas have permeated our Latter-day Saint Culture – for good reason, too. I think that he is right. But maybe there is more…

If Nephi and his family were burning fires in the Arabian Peninsula, they would have attracted a lot of attention. They would have put themselves into a bit of danger. Remember, this is a harsh land. Food isn’t easy to come by. They would have been easy targets for marauders and others that might have tried to attack them. The Lord didn’t want Nephi and his family to fail on their journey to the promised land, so He gave them a commandment that would protect them. After arriving to the Promised land, this would not be a commandment they had to keep. It was just a temporary one.

But here’s a question. God could perform miracles. God gave them a Liahona. God taught Nephi how to make a boat! God caused manna to come down for the children of Israel. Why did God have them not make fires? Why didn’t he just let them make fires and then give them a miracle of protection?

Fire
Fire!!!

Well, the Lord answers that Himself in the Book of Mormon. We read:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:12-14

The Lord knew that the commandment He gave them – not to build many fires – would result in a few problems, so he also posed solutions.

Problems and Solutions
One – How to Cook Food Without Fire? The Lord would make their food become “sweet,” so they didn’t need to cook it.

Two – Who Will Be their Light in the Wilderness – The Lord would be their light. He would prepare the way for them. We don’t have more details on this, but just imagine it. The night would be pretty dark without any fires. And night can come pretty early certain times of the year! During the summer months, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sunset is a little after 7 PM. During the fall and winter months though, the sun sets as early as 5:30 PM. Early nights. Not much traveling when the days get short! (There was probably substantial traveling during the cooler times of the year – the problem, of course, is that sunset comes earlier so the days are shorter!)…So even though we don’t have more detail on how the Lord was their light in the wilderness, we know that He was. Metaphorically, and I think probably also literally.

Addressing these problems and solutions doesn’t really address why the Lord did what He did. And we do postulate. We say, well, it kept them safe from raiding parties. But this isn’t what the reason that the Lord gave. The Lord tells us why:

“…and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:13-14

The Lord understands every law of nature, physics, chemistry, biology. He can do what He wants because He understands the workings of this world He created. And yes, He does support us. He will be our light in the wilderness. He will provide for us. But he doesn’t always make things easy for us just because. He usually provides for us in a way that still tries our faith so we can learn the exact thing He was trying to teach Nephi – that it was the Lord God, and ONLY HIM that delivered us.

Imagine for a moment if Nephi and his family did have fire. If they traveled that dangerous Arabian Peninsula with light and a means to cook their meat. And imagine if the Lord had performed another miracle that gave them safety despite the fires that they built.

I think that it would easy for them to remain ignorant. They didn’t know the land. They were from Jerusalem. Mecca is 1,000 miles from Jerusalem This is a 15 hour drive. To Yemen, close to where Lehi’s family might have changed directions (perhaps Nehor) – it is a 1,500 mile journey. And then from the possible location of Nehor to the possible location of Bountiful is about 950 miles or so. (Depending on the route they took, of course).

I know that all of this is speculative. But follow me for a second. They were more than a thousand miles away from their home! I haven’t really taken the time to appreciate this fact. They didn’t know the area. They didn’t truly understand the danger. And if Heavenly Father had allowed them to cook their food while performing a miracle of keeping them safe then they might not have understood the danger they were in. Maybe they would have arrived to the Promised Land and naively thought that they did it themselves even though God was protecting them. They could have ignorantly thought that they directed their own path, found and cooked their own food, and that they didn’t really need the Lord to deliver them. They never would have been aware of the danger.

It seems like they still weren’t super aware of the danger (if they are, then Nephi doesn’t share it in the record that we have).

So the Lord, through the commandment He gave (not to have fires) and the miracles He performed (cooking their food and being a light in the desert) Both kept them safe and gave them an experience that kept them reliant on Him and strengthened their testimony in Him.

Nephi states:

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.” – 1 Nephi 17:15

Because of this commandment, challenge, and miracle – Nephi was motivated to strive to keep the commandments of God. He also was able to convince his brothers to do the same. They needed God. They needed God’s miracles. So they needed to obey.

***

Wrapping this up.

I think that the Lord does the same things in our lives. He gives us commandments that seem strange – maybe counterintuitive. He gives us commandments that seem harder than another more obvious option. And, during the trial, when we keep His commandments, we are blessed, but we are also still challenged. They often require faith.

I mean, think about Nephi and his family. I assume it was an act of faith to bite into a raw steak. I think that his family probably looked forward to cooking their food later on. Think about the children of Israel. Every night, they went to sleep wondering, would it still rain Manna tomorrow?

Even when we’re keeping the commandments, and we are being blessed, faith is required during the trial!

I have experienced this in my own life, and this scripture actually gives me great comfort. I have tried to follow the commandments I have received from God (the promptings, the impressions, etc), even when it seems counterintuitive. Even when, at times, I’ve been criticized by others.

Recently, I had this experience, defending why I was making certain decisions. In explaining this, I realized, If I really want to succeed, then I must do this the Lord’s way. What good is it to achieve my goal if, at the end, I lose my faith in God. What good is it to achieve my goal if I then am filled with naivete and pride – thinking that I did this myself? If I do this the Lord’s way, then not only will I achieve my goal, but I will do it in a way that helps my soul stay intact.

So – I think that this is why the Lord commanded Nephi and his family not to make fire. What good would it have been if they made it to the promised land, but forgot God in the process? By experiencing this commandment, the trial that it gave them, and the miracle that ensued because of their faith, Nephi and his family were able to make it to the promised land safely, and they knew that God led them safely to deliverance.