It Is By The Lord That We Are Led – 1 Nephi 17:10-16

You can read 1 Nephi 17:10-16 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 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.
  • And 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 partially right.

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?

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! Right now, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sunset is at 6:14 PM. Early nights. Not much traveling when the days get short! (Of course, there was probably substantial traveling during the cooler times of the year – the problem, sunset comes earlier!)…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 naively 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 my soul stays 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 also knowing that God led them safely to deliverance.

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Bountiful – 1 Nephi 17:5-9

You can read 1 Nephi 17:5-8 here.

Context and General Information

  • After traveling in the desert wilderness, Nephi and his family arrived at a land that they called Bountiful. It had fruit and honey. It was also next to a see that they called “Irreantum,” meaning “many waters.”
  • They pitched their tents near the seashore. Despite their many afflictions, when they arrived at the seashore, they rejoiced. They named the place Bountiful because of its many fruits. They were happy to reach this point.
  • After being in the land of Bountiful for many days, the Lord told Nephi to go up to the mountain. Nephi obeyed and prayed to the Lord in the mountain.
  • The Lord commanded Nephi to construct a ship (the Lord would show him how to do it), so that they could cross the sea.
  • Nephi’s immediate response was one of humility – he asked the Lord where to find ore so that he could make the tools he would need to make the ship.

Bountiful

First of all, I don’t want to take much time writing about it, but there is a really interesting article written by Warren P. Aston and published by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies here. This article talks about the probable location of Bountiful (in modern-day Yemen). There are also many pictures of the landscape there. This spot – Bountiful – is an anomaly on the Arabian Peninsula. It is no question that the Lord was directing Lehi and his family.

If you choose to read the article, you will find that this part of Yemen has a lot of rain from monsoons. This fresh water supports many trees. There is an abundance of sycamore fig, tamarind, and date palm trees in the area. There is also a mountain nearby. And there are cliffs (the ones that Laman and Lemuel probably wanted to push Nephi off of!)

There were also big trees there – capable of being used to build a ship.

Anyway – I just found this article interesting, and it helps to visualize the landscape where Nephi and his family found themselves.

There is also a great blog here with a lot of pictures of the area. I wish I had pictures, but I don’t really want to violate someone else’s copyright on their own private pictures, so you can get a nice sense of the area if you look at their blog post.

***

For several years I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Though it isn’t the Arabian Peninsula, Arizona is most definitely the desert. When I think of Nephi and his family traveling through the “wilderness,” I try to visualize them journeying through a landscape similar to that of Arizona and southeastern California (the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, respectively).

I lived in Arizona – with irrigation, a pool and air conditioning! And yet, I get it – it’s HOT! Haha! Sometimes hot doesn’t even begin to describe Arizona in the summer. (and late spring and early fall!). In fact, I moved away from Arizona three years ago, and I haven’t felt hot since!

But the heat is consuming. I remember one of my first experiences in the Arizona sun and heat. I had just moved there from Pennsylvania. It was June, actually. And I left my sneakers in the car. No big deal.

Hahahaha!

I went to get my sneakers out of the car, and something wasn’t right. They were funny. The glue in the sneakers had melted! My sneakers were falling apart! I hadn’t even imagined such a problem. I learned then never to leave anything in the car. It will melt! The heat and sun would warp CDs, melt shoes, and one of my friends even baked a batch of cookies in her car. (She did it on purpose. She put a cookie sheet with 12 blobs of cookie dough on her dashboard during church. Afterwards – fresh, warm, baked cookies! A perk of being in AZ in the summer, I guess!

But I imagine this heat, and then I try to imagine being in Nephi’s group – traveling in the desert heat of the Arabian Peninsula.

You’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s something that happens in the winter – where you feel a bit depressed because you haven’t seen the sun in so long. Well, there is another variation of that in AZ. We got 330+ days of sun in AZ. You never long for the sun.

But in September, when it is still over 100º and you are just sick of the heat, you get a little angry. I’m talking a bit of low-level rage. It’s just there.

Or, in July, when you turn on the news and see the forecast, (This actually happened to me one day) and it says that the high is 117º you get angry. Not low level-rage, but legit crazy! This is when I realized why the Middle East is such a hornet’s nest – it’s TOO HOT!!! The heat has gotten to their heads and made them angry. Let’s stop warring and just send over A.C.s for everyone!!!!! (I’m not trying to make light…I’m just saying – that it gets sooooo hot.)

And THIS is what Nephi and his family were journeying through.

Thankfully, AZ winters are great. Maybe it took Lehi and his family so long to venture through the wilderness because of the intense heat of summer. Maybe they spent more of their time traveling during the winter? Who knows. All I know is, based on my time in AZ (which I actually truly loved it there), I can’t imagine the affliction that Nephi and his family faced. I can’t imagine having children there. I can’t imagine being in that intense sun, day in day out – only tents as shelter.

I can’t imagine the thirst.

And after all of this traveling, they make it to a land – filled with fresh water!, fruit, honeybees, trees (shade!!!!! Quick side note – in AZ, when you are looking for a parking spot, you don’t pay much attention to the first few rows of parking spots. Instead, everyone is vying for the spot that is under a tree. I never loved shade more than I did when I was in AZ).

I imagine that if I was in Nephi’s family, and I had been traveling through the wilderness, then made it to Bountiful, I imagine that I’d figure that Bountiful was the promised land!

I don’t know their situation. Maybe the Liahona made it clear that Bountiful was not their promised land. Maybe they understood that Bountiful was a respite before one last push – another “desert” experience of another type (the ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above…). I’m not sure if they knew this or not.

But one day, Nephi receives the command to get up the mountain, and there the Lord tells him this.

” And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” – 1 Nephi 17:8

Wow.

Nephi’s response:

“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

This response garners a lot of admiration for Nephi. Often, I hear people say (and I’ve said it myself) – Wow! Nephi didn’t know how to build a boat, but he doesn’t even say that! He just asks, “Where can I get the ore to make the tools.” He is so obedient!

And yes, he is so obedient. He doesn’t murmur that he doesn’t have the experience building ships.

However, there is another reason why I admire Nephi by this response. I think that I might have said, “Build a ship?! But look at where we are! Isn’t this the promised land?!?!?! It’s Bountiful! We’re still going?!?!?! We’ve been at this eight years! Bountiful is good enough for me!”

***

Of course Nephi is wiser and more faithful than I am. And I’m so grateful for his example. Because of this experience that he has shared with us through the Book of Mormon, I’ve been blessed when I’ve reached “Bountiful” points in my life – points that were a blessing and respite, but they weren’t the end of the journey.

Bountiful was bountiful, but it was not the promised land.

***

I think that we all have these “Bountiful” experiences in our lives.

We travel and wade through “much affliction” during the wilderness of our lives. We may not be perfect. (We AREN’T perfect), but we are trying our best. We endure.

And then, we make it! We make it to the land of Bountiful…except it looks an awful lot like “the Promised land.” We have rest. We have ample blessings that we were missing out on for so long. We have “fruit, honey, and shade.”

And while we revel in these blessings, we get a message from the Lord, “time to prepare to move on….” We find that Bountiful isn’t our promised land, but we have to build a ship and then do the impossible – cross the sea!

The impossible after what already seemed impossible (going through that desert)!

The trial isn’t over.

We can learn from Nephi because his story is done, and hindsight is 20/20. Though we don’t have hindsight on our own trials, we do have it on his. We know that yes, Nephi will construct a ship. And yes, it will sail across the ocean. Yes, he will make it to the promised land. And that promised land will be exponentially more bountiful than Bountiful.

We can then apply the hindsight of Nephi’s experience to our own lives. When we reach the “bountiful” of our lives, we can rejoice in the blessings of Bountiful while we gear up for the next phase of trial.

Instead of focusing on that “deep sea” we face, we can focus on what comes after the sea – the promised land.

With this, when we hear the command of the Lord, to build a ship so we can cross the deep waters, we won’t get upset. We won’t plead with the Lord to stay in Bountiful. We, instead, will be like Nephi and ask where we can go to find the ore to make the tools.

We will trust God, implicitly. Understanding that His promises are sure, and if Bountiful is good, then imagine how good the promised land will be!!!!!!

And Thus We See – Part 2 – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 17:1-4 here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they go in eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
  • The women bore children in the wilderness.
  • The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
  • They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
  • The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
  • Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.

And Thus We See – God’s Commandments Must Be Fulfilled

When I started studying this topic yesterday, it took me a while to really understand what Nephi was trying to say. You can read part one here.

I guess it tells you a little bit about my personality that when I read God’s Commandments must be fulfilled, a little question mark went in my head. Does this mean we have no agency? Well, of course not! If there is anything that I know about Heavenly Father, it’s that He honors our agency to the end. He won’t even force us to accept His blessings!

Finally, I realized that perhaps this phrase isn’t so much about destiny or force, but it is about the trust we can put in God. We can trust that if we choose to keep His commandments, then they must be fulfilled.

Perhaps an illustration of what I mean is more helpful. Nephi was commanded to go to Jerusalem to get the plates of Brass. He obeyed. Though he didn’t know how he would finally get the plates, He knew that God wouldn’t give him a commandment that could not be fulfilled. He trusted that God isn’t like Lucy (from Peanuts). He isn’t going to set up the football, wait for us to wind up for the kick, and then pull the ball away at the last second leaving us flat on the ground.

God’s Commandments Must All Be Fulfilled = We CAN Trust in God!!!!

We can trust God – that not only does He give commandments, but He provides ways for us to keep the commandments. We read:

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3

He Doth Nourish

While Nephi and his family were in the wilderness, they were nourished, physically. We read:

“And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men;…” – 1 Nephi 17:2

I really can’t even imagine giving birth to children and feeding them while in the desert wilderness of the Arabian Peninsula. When I had my children, life wasn’t necessarily perfect, but I had all of the comforts I needed for my health and for the health of my children – a bassinet, swing, vibrating chairs, nursing pump, bottles, Binkis, DISPOSABLE DIAPERS AND WIPES!!!!. I had food, milk, clean water, etc. If I had a craving, then I was able to either get it for myself, or I was able to cajole my husband into getting it for me (I can’t even think of how many pizzas he made while I was pregnant with my third daughter!). I wasn’t in the wilderness. I wasn’t in the desert of Saudi Arabia. I had it so much easier than the women of Lehi’s family!

Yet they kept the commandments. They kept the personal commandment – to go to the Promised Land. They kept the relatively more generic (though personally applied) commandment of multiplying and replenishing the earth.

And the Lord nourished them.

The Lord nourished them in His own way, too. This may not have been particularly pleasant, but it kept them nourished and safe from marauders. Because of the nourishment of the Lord, they were able to keep the commandments. They trusted in the Lord, that His commandments aren’t silly suggestions, but that they must be fulfilled, and they were.

If we will put our trust in God, then we will also be nourished and be made able to do what it is He has asked us to do.

And Strengthen Them

The nourishment that the Lord provided to Lehi and his family also strengthened them.

“Nourish and Strengthen.” It’s kind of a trite expression that I poke fun at. I always seem to say this in my prayers when praying over my food…that it will nourish and strengthen my body.

(Note: There have been times when I try to switch it up, and I truly don’t want my prayers to be a “vain repetition.” So – when I say “nourish and strengthen,” I try to actually mean it. And I try NOT to say this when I’m about to chow down on brownies or something. hahaha..)

Though “nourish and strengthen” may be an overused expression in our church culture, we don’t want to overlook it now.

The Lord will nourish us and strengthen us!

 

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Seems impossible, but this weed is growing out of a brick wall. The Lord can do the same with us.

And provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them

Often we are given personal commandments that seem nearly impossible for us to complete. Think of Lehi and his family. Really, how on earth were they supposed to do what they did? There is no way that they could have successfully made it to the promised land without the tender mercies of the Lord. Recall what Nephi promised to show us through his record:

“…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – 1 Nephi 1:20

Often, keeping the personal commandments that God has given us, requires a bit of faith on our part. But if we will exercise that faith, then we can be sure that He will bless us with His tender mercies. These small blessings and “coincidences” will enable us to do whatever it is that He has directed us to do.

Elder Bednar taught:

“We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – David A. Bednar

The Lord’s tender mercies are the providence that He gives us. He doesn’t command us and then leave us alone. He is such a loving God. He will help us to keep the very commandment He gave. I can’t leave out the quintessential scripture on the subject:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

I think that in 1 Nephi 17:3, when Nephi states, And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled, he is trying to say that we can trust God. He is trying to say that there is no risk in keeping the commandments. Though they may not be easy, and we may suffer trials and afflictions, we can rest assured – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. God does support His children. He nourishes and strengthens them. He provides a way for us to keep His commandments. He will provide means for us while we sojourn in the “wilderness” of our lives.

We can trust Him.

And Thus We See – Part One – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 17:1-4 here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they go in eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
  • The women bore children in the wilderness.
  • The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
  • They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
  • The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
  • Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.

And Thus We See

Nephi quickly relates how his family journeyed again in the wilderness. They started going a new direction (eastward), and they waded through much affliction in the wilderness.

Things were hard.

But Nephi also teaches us a lesson:

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3

The phrase and thus we see lets us in on the fact that Nephi is trying to emphasize a lesson that they have learned. Remember, this account is taken from the Small Plates that Nephi was commanded to make later on. The small plates contain only the things that please God – the ministry of Nephi and his people. Nephi has left out many details and many experiences that he and his family went through. He is sharing the highlights so we can learn the lessons that he learned in his life.

So – here’s a bit lesson that Nephi learned. He wants us to realize that, and he begins “And thus we see.”

The Commandments of God Must Be Fulfilled

I wish I knew better on what this meant. I mean, I get the idea – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. But does this mean that it comes at the expense of our agency?

I don’t think so.

As I think about it, the concept “many are called, but few are chosen,” comes up. We read it in the scriptures:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36

Okay- so this is interesting. We read that many are called, but few are chosen. And then the question comes up – why are they not chosen??? The Lord answers –

  • because their hearts are set upon the things of the world
  • They aspire (not to keep the commandments of God) to the honors of men
  • The Rights of the priesthood are connected with the powers of heaven
  • The powers of heaven are controlled by principles of righteousness.

Elder Bednar taught:

“I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar

What does this have to do with the commandments of God must be fulfilled?

Well – I think that there are times when this is true – His commandments must be fulfilled. I kind of think that if Lehi chose not to listen to God’s call to flee Jerusalem, then the Lord would have led out another family. His work will roll forth. If Joseph Smith hadn’t chosen to listen, then I think another would have been sent to do Joseph’s work.

This is totally my own personal opinion, I realize. I don’t know if there is any doctrinal soundness to it, and I really can’t take the time to look it up right now.

The commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem for a promised land had a much broader purpose than he could have ever imagined. Yes, it would be a blessing to him and his family immediately. They wouldn’t die in Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is gonna be big. A lot of people will die. Those that don’t die will be taken to Babylon as slaves. This period in Jewish history isn’t pretty. So, leading Lehi out of Jerusalem would make an immediate impact on Lehi’s life. Though they traveled in the wilderness for 8 years, it was an immediate blessing.

(By the way – based on how quickly Lehi fled and how he sent his family back to Jerusalem repeatedly, but didn’t go himself – I think that his life was in immediate danger. I don’t think that Lehi would have lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem. I think that the people would have killed him before that happened. They already sought his life.)

So – the commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem definitely had an immediate blessing. It was also a blessing to them eight years later when they all actually arrived at the promised land.

But what Lehi couldn’t have fully grasped is how his choice to obey would impact generations of his own seed and then millions of others.

Lehi’s Own Seed
Lehi’s own seed was blessed. The Nephite civilization lasted for about 800 years. The Lamanite civilization ebbed and flowed for that length of time and longer. And still, there are remnants of the Lamanites living now.

During the heights of the civilization, however (from 600 BC to 400 AD), they experienced many blessings. They had the gospel, they saw the Savior, they had riches, they had comforts, roads, etc. Lehi’s decision to keep God’s commandments and flee into the wilderness blessed his posterity for a long, long time.

Millions of Others
I am blessed. And I’m among many others who are blessed because of Lehi’s decision to obey the voice of the Lord. Without Lehi’s choice to keep the commandments – to flee Jerusalem, to have his sons retrieve the plates, to have his sons persuade Ishmael and his family to accompany them, to journey in a difficult wilderness, to board a boat and sail across the world – we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon today.

I truly cannot imagine my life without the influence of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me light, guidance, comfort, and hope. It has helped to calm my soul in times of difficulty. It has brought me to a better understanding of my loving Savior.

Because of the Book of Mormon, I have a knowledge and testimony of my Savior.

The Lord knew this. He prepared this. His commandment – for Lehi to flee Jerusalem – needed to be fulfilled in order for His work to be done. This commandment would help to set off events for the gathering of Israel. This is a major part of the Lord’s work.

So – His commandments must be fulfilled. That’s the way it is. They must be! And we have a choice – are we going to be a part of it or not?

And, I think that that the real point that Nephi was getting at – the Lord doesn’t command lightly. He doesn’t give us suggestions and then raise his hands and shrug his shoulders when a challenge comes up.

He gives us a commandment, and He has a way for them to be fulfilled.

So – If we are willing to keep God’s commandments, we can trust that they must be fulfilled. We can trust that this means He will provide a way for them to be fulfilled. We can trust that He isn’t a God that commands in vain.

More on this concept tomorrow.

Anger, Lies, and Persuasion – 1 Nephi 16:36-39

You can read 1 Nephi 16:36-39 here.

Context and General Information

  • Everyone starts murmuring against Lehi and Nephi. They say that they want to go back to Jerusalem.
  • Laman and Lemuel use this as an opportunity to make a wicked suggestion: to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Laman and Lemuel manipulate the truth and lie in order to persuade the others to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Thankfully the Lord steps in. He spoke to them and chastised them. They turned away their anger, repented of their sins, and then were once again blessed with food so that they did not perish.

Persuasion and Lies

The verses included in these verses have always been interesting to me. First of all, I’m interested in the idea of persuasion. I feel like it often has a negative connotation, but really it is neither positive or negative. It’s just a thing.

In the dictionary, we learn the real definition of persuade:

Persuade
1: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action
2 : to plead with : URGE – Merriam Webster

Persuasion is the simple act of trying to move another person. When we understand that this is the case, then we will also find that often people have many motives of persuasion and different ways to persuade others. These aren’t always good! This is where the bad stuff may come in.

We are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants that power or influence over others ought NOT to be maintained – by force. Instead of unrighteous dominion, Priesthood leaders (and probably other leaders, too), should lead others through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, etc.

Persuading others – to believe in the Savior Jesus Christ, to do good – is okay!

NOW.

We should look at it from the other side, too. We have to remember that there are forces at play trying to persuade us to do one thing or another. Yes, we have the prophets (ancient and modern) who are persuading us to come closer to Christ. We have good friends, teachers, leaders, and family members who are doing the same. There are good people around us who are persuading us to be better people because they love us and they want us to be happy.

Then, there are people who are trying to persuade us for other reasons. They want power, they are selfishly motivated. They don’t care about us – other than they need us for some reason or another. They need our money. They need our support. But they don’t intend to lift us up or see us happy!

We are surrounded by persuading voices. It is easy to think of politicians. But also commercials, sociopaths, internet trolls. Whatever.

In 1 Nephi, we read how Laman and Lemuel tried to persuade their brethren:

“And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.

38 Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:37-38

I think that if we study this experience, we can learn how not to be persuaded by little jerks like Laman and Lemuel.

Heart Conditions

Remember what we read in the verse before:

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

Notice the condition of the hearts of the brethren of Nephi. They were upset. They were murmuring. Because of their anger, the Spirit of the Lord wasn’t with them anymore. They were so irrational that they expressed the desire to return back to Jerusalem – despite the extreme hardships they endured to get to the point they were at!

The angered state is not a good state to be able to think spiritually or rationally, so if we are worked up into an anger, we are very easily persuaded by those who don’t have our best interest in mind. We are already stirred up. We aren’t seeing clearly. We need to fight to stay in a positive state – one that is open to the truth and the Spirit of the Lord.

This is really resonating with me right now. We are surrounded by this. There are news agencies and politicians banking on us losing our wits and then buying into anything they say by getting us angry.

Laman and Lemuel were perceptive enough to see their chance. Everyone was angry enough for them to voice their murderous idea – to kill Lehi (their father!) and Nephi (their Brother!)

Lies!

Laman and Lemuel don’t just stop there – with this idea to kill Lehi and Nephi. Instead, they give their reasons, which are laced with lies.

If the sons of Ishmael and others who were listening to this argument had their wits about them, I think that they would have seen the incredible irony in what Laman and Lemuel were saying versus the actual truth.

What Laman and Lemuel Said – Versus the Actual Truth

  1. Laman and Lemuel:“…Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.”

    Actual Truth – Nephi didn’t seek to be a ruler or a teacher over his brothers. Nephi is loyal to God and willing to do what God asks Him. In fact, Laman and Lemuel knew exactly why Nephi was chosen to lead them. The angel told them this as Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi and Sam with a rod:

    “…Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?…” – 1 Nephi 3:29

    Laman and Lemuel are manipulating the truth to engender more anger and persuade the others to go along with their evil plan. Yes, it is true that Nephi has become a sort of leader over them. But it isn’t because he sought power over them. And they know it. They know that their own iniquities have disqualified them from being leaders themselves.

  2. Laman and Lemuel:“…Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness…”

    Actual Truth: – Nephi did see angels! They know this! They were there when an angel ministered to him! And this wasn’t the only time. An angel taught him the meaning of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. His brothers were in Lehi’s tent arguing. Nephi wasn’t there! And when Nephi returned, he was able to teach his brother the meaning of Lehi’s words. Laman and Lemuel once again are twisting the truth. They know that Nephi has borne testimony to them of these experiences.

    Not only that, but it wasn’t Nephi’s idea to go into the wilderness. It was Lehi who had received the commandment to go to the wilderness, and many people – other than Lehi – had also received a witness of this command.

  3. Laman and Lemuel:“… But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes,…”

    Actual Truth: This is almost getting comical. Laman and Lemuel are lying in the very moment! They are working cunning arts – taking advantage of people’s emotions! They are deceiving the eyes of the rest of the people in their party.

    If the others weren’t so blinded by their own murmuring, then one of them might have had the wits to say, “Wait a minute…aren’t you lying right now?! Didn’t you also see an angel?! Why are you trying to use your ‘cunning arts’ to deceive us and have us kill them?!

    Laman and Lemuel are guilty of exactly what they leverage against Nephi. It’s kind of disgusting. (And it happens all the time still…I won’t go into examples, but I’m sure you can think of some).

  4. Laman and Lemuel:“…and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. …”

    Actual Truth: THIS IS WHAT LAMAN AND LEMUEL WANT TO DO! They want to become the rulers and leaders over the people so they can do with them according to their will and pleasure. They pretend like getting rid of Nephi and Lehi will grant them “freedom.” Instead, and everyone there should know this by now killing Nephi will ensure their death.

    They are in the wilderness. They are somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. It isn’t a particularly hospitable climate. They aren’t a stone’s throw from Jerusalem. They have been traveling months, if not years by now.

    They have already nearly died from starvation in the wilderness, and they were only sustained by Nephi’s faith and wits – to make a bow and arrow and go hunt for food.

    Laman and Lemuel aren’t interested in the truth, though. They are interested in something else. They want their father and their brother eliminated so that they can have power. They can’t go out and say this, though. Instead, they decide to appeal to the anger of the people who are in distress.

    It’s all completely insane.

More Anger

We read:

“…And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:38

So – the sons of Ishmael (and others) were angry. Laman and Lemuel used this anger to persuade them of their evil idea. Laman and Lemuel were, unfortunately, effective. The people became angrier.

This is where we have to be careful. In their anger, which was based on a series of fallacies, they had decided that murder would be a good idea. They had been persuaded to break a pretty major commandment!

What Can We Learn from This?

Overall, the thought I keep having is that we need to do everything we can to be worthy of the Spirit. We need to do what we can not to be blinded by the deception of the Devil.

Marion G. Romney stated:

“We know that there is available to each of us the gift of the Holy Ghost—the power of revelation which embraces the gift of discernment by which we may unerringly detect the devil and the counterfeits he is so successfully foisting upon this gullible generation.” – Marion G. Romney

If we stay close to the Spirit, then we will not succumb to the Devil or those who have evil motives.

***

Laman, Lemuel, and the rest are extremely blessed. The Lord himself stopped this. He spoke to the entire party, chastised them – and they repented. If Laman and Lemuel had been able to go with their plan, then not only would Lehi and Nephi have died, but the rest of them would have, too.

They were dependent on the Lord. They didn’t even know where to go to find food – would they really have been able to make it back to Jerusalem. Once again, the righteousness of Nephi saves this group as they journey to the promised land.

And we can learn – we can learn not to let ourselves be deceived. We can do this by keeping our emotions in check – not allowing ourselves to get angry. We can do this by staying close to the Spirit so that we have the Spirit of discernment and charity.

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

You can read 1 Nephi 16:34-36 here.

Context and General Information

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

From Mourning to Murmuring

In 1 Nephi, we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Receiving Comfort Is A Choice

The Lord truly honors our agency.

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

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

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

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

This is exactly what happened with the daughters of Ishmael:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Liahona – Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 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

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

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

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 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 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.

The Liahona – Part One – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 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 Ball of Curious Workmanship

There is so much that can be studied from this text. We can learn about faith and loyalty from Nephi. We can learn about the real temptations that face all of us – to murmur and complain during trials – from Lehi. We can learn about chastisement and trial. But today, I think that I would like to focus on that little “ball of curious workmanship” – the Liahona.

God Communicated with Lehi and His Family Through the Liahona

After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of sticks, he went to his father to ask where he should hunt for food. Lehi then went to the Lord.

Lehi had been murmuring. I can’t imagine the suffering and trial that Lehi must have been going through to push him to this edge. We can learn from him. We must trust in the Lord. Lehi was chastised most likely because of his lack of trust in God’s words – despite the witnesses and miracles he had experienced. After being chastised, the Lord commanded:

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.” – 1 Nephi 16:26

Unfortunately, the message that Lehi read on the ball was one that caused him to “fear and tremble exceedingly.” But we see here that the Lord communicates with them through the Liahona.

It’s interesting. The Lord had just been communicating with Lehi – without the Liahona. And then he tells Lehi to read what is written on the Liahona. It seems that others saw what was written on it, too. It was a message for all of them.

***

Not everything that was written on the Liahona was a rebuke. We read:

“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.

29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, …” – 1 Nephi 16:28-29

For the most part, the Liahona communicated a positive message with Lehi and his family. The pointers on the Liahona literally guided them on their path to the promised land. The writing on the Liahona was plain to be read – it was written in the language that they could understand. This writing helped Lehi and his family to understand the ways of the Lord, and it was written and changed from time to time.

Notice that phrase, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and then recall the scripture in 1 Nephi 2:

“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

The Lord, in His mercy, gave Lehi and his family another way that they could understand His ways, His dealings. Even though I don’t know exactly what the words on the Liahona said, I am guessing that the additional understanding they received from these words brought them comfort. So, the Liahona not only guided their path, but gave them understanding, and comfort.

Modern Day Liahonas

When I read about the Liahona, I can’t help but think I wish I had one. Wouldn’t it be nice? On my own proverbial journey to the promised land, there are times I don’t know where to go. It would be so easy to simply look at a compass, see the spindles, read the words, and know that I need to go that way next.

But, I don’t have a Liahona. At least not in the same way that Lehi had. However, we do have many things that serve the same function as a Liahona in our lives.

Scriptures

Nearly five hundred years after the Liahona was used by Lehi to guide his family to the promised land, Alma taught his son about the “Liahona” that they had in their lives:

“38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” – Alma 37:38-39, 44-45

Alma teaches that the word of God can function as a Liahona in our own personal lives and on our personal journeys to the ultimate “promised land.” And just imagine. Alma taught this to his son – in the New World – about 74 years before the Savior was born. They had the brass plates and the words of the prophets, but compare that to now!!!

The word of God that we have available to our fingertips is astounding. We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We have the transcripts of talks given by modern day prophets at general conference. We have other good blogs and testimonies of friends – both real life and virtual. We have so many ways to get the word of God in our lives.

The amazing thing about the scriptures is that they were written thousands of years ago, but can have specific and personal application now.

For the most part, when I study the scriptures, I have found that the words aren’t directly related to what I’m experiencing in life. HOWEVER, the words of the scriptures bring the Spirit. My choice to study them opens a conduit between my heart and the Spirit of the Lord. And then, I’m able to receive specific instruction and inspiration that applies directly to my life.

In this way, I believe that the impact of the scriptures in our lives is cumulative rather than singular. (or at least usually). When we go to the scriptures day after day, that conduit is opened day after day. We have more inspiration flowing between our hearts and the Spirit day after day.

Even though I think that, on the whole, scripture study is a cumulative experience, I have also had the rare singular experience while reading the scriptures. If you want to read about one of those experiences you can here.

So – the scriptures are a “liahona” in our lives. And yet, I can’t help but find myself still kinda wishing that I had a real liahona in my life. (Please forgive me, I understand that this is probably not the most faithful sentiment…but I’m being honest).

This feeling – why can’t we have these personal liahonas in our lives – I promise isn’t a thought of complaint or murmur against God. I’m seriously wondering about it. Lehi and his family had one. Why did they have this access to God? Do we have the same access?

And even though I just said that we have the Liahona – in the form of scriptures – Lehi and his family also had the scriptures. Wasn’t that enough? Yet the Lord, in His love and mercy, provided them with a Liahona. Do we have other, more personal Liahonas today?

As I ponder this question – Do we have other, more personal Liahonas in our lives today, I can’t help but feel that the answer is…YES!

Priesthood Blessings

Patriarchal Blessings

President Thomas S. Monson taught:

“The same Lord who provided a Liahona to Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless treasure. …

“… Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers. … Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way” – Thomas S. Monson

I’m so silly! I sit and get somewhat jealous that Lehi and his family had a “ball of curious workmanship” which pointed directions and had messages written on it from time to time. And yet, I have a patriarchal blessing!

This blessing has been recorded, and I have a copy of it. I’m afraid to admit that I’m guilty of what President Monson advised us not to do. My blessing is folded neatly and tucked away. And I am even more ashamed to admit that I can’t remember the last time I read it.

I say that I want personal instruction in my life – AND I HAVE IT!!! Silly, silly me.

I do love my patriarchal blessing, and I haven’t always forgotten to read it. My blessing has been a help for me and my life ever since I received it. Like the Liahona, it has helped to guide my path, it has helped me to better understand the Lord, and it has brought me great comfort.

Priesthood Blessings
Because I’m still somewhat unsatisfied, I keep noticing the following phrase about the words written on the Liahona:

“…and it was written and changed from time to time,…” – 1 nephi 16:29

Yes, we have scriptures that can be like a Liahona in our lives. And yes, we have Patriarchal Blessings that are very personal, and can also act as a Liahona in our lives. But these – the words in them – are both static. Even if different things stand out to you each time you read them – in either the scriptures or your patriarchal blessing – the words are actually the same each time.

Yet, the words on the Liahona were not always the same. It wasn’t one word inscribed in stone. These words “changed from time to time.”

Do we have “Liahonas” in our lives that act this way? Once again – YES!!! Priesthood blessings.

Priesthood blessings can help to guide us, help us to understand God, and can bring us considerable comfort. Priesthood blessings are given to us in real time. They are another “Liahona” for our lives!

President Oaks taught:

“What is the significance of a priesthood blessing? Think of a young man preparing to leave home to seek his fortune in the world. If his father gave him a compass, he might use this worldly tool to help him find his way. If his father gave him money, he could use this to give him power over worldly things. A priesthood blessing is a conferral of power over spiritual things. Though it cannot be touched or weighed, it is of great significance in helping us overcome obstacles on the path to eternal life.” – Dallin H. Oaks

I’m so very fortunate to be married to a man who holds and honors the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood. There have been many times when I have asked him for a blessing, and he always obliges. The words of the blessings come from the Lord.

The words in priesthood blessings may change from time to time – just as the words of the Liahona did. This doesn’t nullify earlier blessings. It is simply newer information that will help to guide our paths.

I want to make a quick mention that these blessings are blessings! They aren’t magic. They aren’t fortunes. They aren’t oracles. They are blessings from God – given to us to help us have comfort, wisdom, and guidance. We need to respect the Priesthood and the blessings of the priesthood.

***

Tomorrow – I’ll explore how the Liahona worked in the Lives of Lehi – and how it relates to our modern Liahonas as well.

Physical Trials are Really Hard -1 Nephi 16:20

You can read 1 Nephi 16:20

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family are enduring a physical trial – after days or weeks of journeying, they have no food.
  • Nearly everyone, including Lehi, begins to murmur.

Physical Trials

I know I talked about a lot of this yesterday, but I guess it is still on my mind today…oh well.

Earlier in 1 Nephi 16, we read how Nephi broke his bow. This was a huge challenge to his entire family. Of course the usual people (Laman and Lemuel) murmured. Their murmuring extended to the sons of Ishmael. And, unlike other times, this murmuring even spread to Lehi. We read:

“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.” – 1 Nephi 16:20

We are so lucky these days. I can’t say that I’ve ever really been that hungry. I typically eat every single day. And I have almost always had plenty of food in my house. I don’t need a bow and arrow to get food. I just go to the store.

This physical trial was difficult.

Though I haven’t been that hungry before, I’ve experienced other difficult physical trials. I’ve had kidney stones. PAINFUL!!!! I mean, excruciatingly painful. Thankfully, I passed the stones and was able to feel good again after that. But in the moment of my kidney stones, it was hard to really think about anything other than the immediate pain in my back. When my husband drove me to the hospital, I was somewhat irritated by his desire to obey traffic laws like stop signs and red lights. I was in pain.

I’ve also had shingles. This was another physical ordeal. It started as a twinge in my back – that lasted about a week. It would keep me awake at night, but kind of felt like I had just tweaked my back during a workout. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Every day, though, it got a little worse.

The pain started on a Sunday night. It continued through to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. On that Saturday night I got very little sleep. Sunday morning I told my husband that my back hurt too much. I wasn’t going to go to church. I couldn’t imagine sitting in chairs for three hours. It would kill my back. (I still had no idea that I had Shingles at that point.) So I stayed home. I read my scriptures. Then I put on my headphones and went out for a short walk – hoping that walking would loosen up my back.

Instead, I was focusing too much on the pain still. I tripped over nothing, and then I sprained my ankle. It was a pretty good sprain, about a half a mile from my house. Someone happened to be driving by as I fell. She offered to take me home, but I had a bit too much pride to accept. She went on her way.

It took a moment for me to gather my courage. I was feeling so defeated. I stood up, putting all of my weight on my good, right foot. And I dreaded the walk home – slightly up hill – about half a mile. I hobbled for a few minutes, and then noticed a car pulling up. It was the same woman. She told me that she couldn’t get me out of her mind, and turned around. This time I accepted her ride very graciously – knowing that it was a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father.

I thanked her profusely and then went back into the empty house. I should mention right now that we were living at my dad’s house. Yes – with my entire family (four kids and husband) – in my late thirties…living with my dad.

I should also mention that I have this problem with dishydrotic eczema from time to time. It’s caused by stress and then certain food sensitivities. The food sensitivities are also brought on by stress. It’s confusing because there are times when I can eat whatever I want with no real problem. Then there are other times when I eat the same foods, and my hands are covered in itchy blisters. This was one of the times when my hands were covered with itchy blisters.

So – I had blistering hands and a fat, throbbing, newly-sprained ankle. I laughed when I got home, thinking – well – maybe now that my ankle hurts so much, my back will stop hurting.

I sat down on the couch putting up my foot, and was dismayed to noticed that not only did my foot hurt, but my back was still hurting, too…a lot. So, I decided to carefully get up and go to take a bath. Maybe that would make me feel better.

I got to the bathroom, and started to disrobe, and then I noticed a huge rash – spanning the upper part of the left side of my chest. This rash was all over my breast, extending out – to underneath my armpit, and even to my back. It didn’t itch at that point (not compared to my hands anyway), but where did it come from!?!?!?! This rash didn’t look like hives, but when I saw it, I’d had it.

I put my shirt back on and went down to the couch and cried. I felt like I was at a breaking point. Now, it wasn’t life-or-death, so I know that it is no comparison to what Lehi and his family were feeling. But I absolutely felt the temptation to complain to God. In my mind, I wanted to complain – I wanted to think I’m doing everything that I’ve been commanded. It’s humiliating, but I’m okay with it. I’ve given up so many of my material goods, but I’m okay with it. I’m living at my dad’s house, and that’s okay. My hands are cracking, bleeding, and rashy, but I can live with it. My back hurts, and I can deal with it. My sprained ankle – I hate getting sprained ankles, but I can rest. … But isn’t that enough. Now I have a giant rash on my body, too? I don’t know if I can take much more.

I prayed that somehow the rash would magically disappear. I wrote a text to my husband – who was at church with the kids. I told him I was okay – he didn’t need to rush home or anything. And I sat on the couch, crying, reading my scriptures, and praying. I tried as hard as I could not to murmur against God.

***

I don’t think that I’m any better than Lehi or anyone else. I have an advantage – I have the examples of those who went before me.

Like Lehi, I’m on a “journey” of my own, and I’m doing everything that I can to follow the Spirit so I can arrive to my own “promised land.” This journey has been emotionally demanding. And that’s the way it goes. We don’t grow without being pushed out of our comfort zones. We don’t make it to the tops of the mountains without climbing a mountain.

When we first embark on a journey (of any kind – physical, spiritual, emotional), it is hard, but also kind of easy. There is this initial excitement and rush we feel. We are stoked. But then, time passes – and we are still on the journey. It isn’t as exciting as at first. The reality of the difficulty of the journey sets in.

With a really big journey – like Lehi’s – we may get through the doldrums. But there’s more to it than that. A big reward (the promised land) requires a big sacrifice (8 years in the wilderness). It’s just the way it works. You can’t plant a green bean and then expect apples. No, if you want an apple tree, you plant an apple seed and then tend to it for years before it gives you a single piece of fruit.

So – Lehi got through the doldrums. He had kept the commandments. Yet he was still tested. Right to the brink of what he could handle.

And we have these examples. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes (understandable ones!) that Lehi and others made – because we know better. We have Lehi and Nephi as examples. We know the ending of their story – they would make it. They would eat. It wasn’t worth the murmuring because they would be okay.

As I sat on the couch in my dad’s house that Sunday morning – ankle throbbing, hand itching, back aching, and my mind racing with worry about this new rash that had popped up – I wasn’t particularly happy. But I knew that I shouldn’t murmur against God. I needed His blessings. I needed to do what I could to get into a state of mind that would bring about a solution to these physical problems that I was having. So – after I read my scriptures,  I just started reading a book. It wasn’t anything spiritual or special. It would just get me into a better mood.

***

This is longer than I anticipated. That’s how it goes. It is helpful for me, and I hope it will be helpful for you.

My family got home from church, we hung out, it was a nice day. Then, later on the kids went to bed. I was spending time with my husband, and letting him know that I was feeling quite defeated. I wasn’t murmuring against God, but I did admit I don’t know how much I can take. But I also knew that if God thinks I can do it, then I can do it. There are so many people who are suffering so much more than I am.

So – in this situation, I was talking with him about my problems, but I want to emphasize I wasn’t murmuring. There is a difference. And there have been times that I have confused identifying a problem in our lives and murmuring. It is good to identify problems. Pretending problems don’t exist is not an exercise of faith. Instead, we have faith when we accept our problems, identify them, and then either endure them or – if it is appropriate – work to find a solution (usually it’s a bit of both).

So – I was telling my husband about the day, and I told him about my rash on my chest. As I was talking to him about it, I admitted that it seemed different than my usual hives. He patiently listened. When I started describing my rash, I had a thought come to my mind Shingles.

I didn’t know anything about Shingles really – other than they were painful and that they were from the Chicken Pox Virus. But the thought Shingles was a prompting from the Spirit. I had my phone next to me, so I picked it up and googled “Shingles.” I read the symptoms, and knew – I have Shingles.

At first, I wasn’t particularly comforted, even though the prompting was a blessing and a comfort. I still wanted everything to magically disappear. (I hope that I’m not the only person on earth who wants things to magically disappear. But I’m childish sometimes). I didn’t want shingles because that meant that all of this – the pain, the rash, etc. was a real issue and wouldn’t just go away with a good night’s sleep.

I told my husband that I thought I had Shingles, and I started to cry. I didn’t want Shingles. (Funny…I already had it. It’s not something I could choose at this point!) We talked for a little while longer, and I’m so grateful that I’m married to a faithful man. His words comforted me, and then before going to bed, I asked for a blessing.

***

I went to the doctor, and they gave me anti-viral medication. They told me that I should take the medication, and that I would also still be in pain. (They weren’t lying). The pain got exponentially worse before it got better. I took the medication for a week, and it cleared up the rash – which meant the virus was no longer active. But, Shingles often causes a bit of nerve damage, and I had pain in my back and side for about 4 more months.

That little vindictive virus. It sits – dormant -on a nerve for decades before attacking. Oh – and typically you’re immune system has to be compromised for it to proliferate. Meaning, you have to be either elderly or really stressed out. So – this feels like you’re being kicked when you are down!

I was already stressed out. The last thing I needed was some idiotic virus attacking my nerves! But that’s the best opportunity for this virus. It attacks when you are at your edge.

***

I didn’t plan on writing about this, and I’m not really sure why I did. Other than I know that even while we are faithful, we will experience trial. Sometimes those trials are mental. Other times, our trials are physical. Physical trials can also become mental trials – as they are very taxing.

These trials aren’t a statement from God that we lack faith. They aren’t a statement from God that he doesn’t like us. Trials don’t come to us because Heavenly Father is ignoring us. Trial come to us because that’s life.  I saw a quote recently:

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Heavenly Father doesn’t promise us that He will clear our lives – free from trials and difficulties. Instead, He lets us know that He will allow us to experience trial, but we don’t need to fear. He can consecrate those afflictions for our gain.

So – when we find ourselves experiencing hardship, even when we are faithful, even when we are keeping the commandments, we can still put our trust in Him. It’s okay to identify the problem. It’s okay to accept it. It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay for us to plead – just as the Savior did – that our trials are lifted from us. And, like the Savior, we need to be willing to accept Heavenly Father’s will. As we do, we may not have the trial lifted, but we will be strengthened. We will weather the storm, and we may just find that the storm cleared the path for us.

 

The Importance of Maintaining Faith During Oppressive Trials – 1 Nephi 16:17-24

You can read 1 Nephi 16:17-24 here.

Context and General Information

  • After traveling for many days, Lehi and his family pitched their tents so they could get some food.
  • Nephi went forth to slay food, and he broke his very nice, steel bow. His brothers were angry with him because of this. Their bows had already lost their spring, so they were rendered useless. Nephi’s bow was the last reliable weapon for obtaining food, and now it was gone.
  • Nephi and his brothers returned from hunting without any food. Everyone was very fatigued and extremely hungry – after all of the journeying they had just done. So the news of no food and a broken bow didn’t go over very well. In fact, not only did Laman and Lemuel begin to murmur, but also the sons of Ishmael and even Lehi.
  • Nephi spoke with his brethren, trying to comfort them and get them to stop complaining against God.
  • Nephi then made a simple bow and arrow out of wood and a straight stick, respectively. He also armed himself with a sling and stones. He asked his father where to go to obtain food.
  • Lehi inquired of the Lord where Nephi should go – he had humbled himself because of Nephi’s emphatic and energizing words.

Maintaining Faith During Oppressive Trials

I can’t even estimate how many times I’ve read this story. Yet, every time I read it, I learn something new. That’s the amazing thing about the scriptures. The same words, written thousands of years ago, read repeatedly are relevant.

Okay. So here we go.

As we read yesterday the journey in the Saudi Peninsula (which is most likely where Lehi and his family were traveling) was not an easy journey. This is a hot and arid part of the world. For the most part, the Saudi Peninsula is a series of deserts. Yet, the Lord guided them through the more fertile parts of the land during their journey.

Now, the more fertile parts of the land happen to be in the mountains on the western side of the Saudi Peninsula – near the Red Sea. We know from Nephi’s account that he and his family were “in the borders near the Red Sea.” (See 1 Nephi 16:14.)

We don’t know exactly where they were walking. Were they in the mountains? Were they traveling at the base of the mountains? I suppose we can make an educated guess – as Lehi later on instructs Nephi, according to the instructions given on the Liahona, to go hunt for food in the “tops of the mountains.” So – they were probably near enough to the mountains, but they weren’t already traveling on the tops of them.

This makes sense to me. It would be pretty hard to caravan on the “tops” of mountains.” Perhaps they were at the foothills.

What’s the point of all of this? I guess it is just to help us really internalize what it was like for Lehi and his family. They are in a hot part of the world. I checked today’s weather in Mecca, which is probably near to where Lehi and his family were traveling, and it is 104. I used to live in Phoenix, AZ. I can relate to this kind of heat. And I can tell you – I wouldn’t want to be caravanning in it!

So – they are probably hot (not sure when they left Jerusalem. I hope they were taking their journey through this part of the world during winter!) They have been walking for days. They are hungry. They don’t just want food. They need it.

And then, Nephi goes and breaks his bow.

Nephi! Nephi is righteous, and has been righteous from the start of this journey.

This is Nephi – who didn’t directly receive revelation that his family was supposed to leave Jerusalem for a promised land. His father received that revelation. Yet, Nephi, instead of complaining about leaving his friends, comforts, and life behind in Jerusalem, goes to the Lord. He gains a testimony that they truly do need to flee from Jerusalem.

This is Nephi – who when he was told by his father to go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban, didn’t murmur but stated one of the most quoted scriptures I will go and do.

This is Nephi – who not only told his father he would “go and do,” but he actually went and did. Despite two failed attempts, Nephi kept his courage, entered into Jerusalem armed only with the Spirit, and prevailed against Laban, obtaining the plates.

This is Nephi – who faithfully returned, once again, to Jerusalem, to get the family of Ishmael, and when his brothers rebelled, he followed the promptings of the Spirit and spoke to his brothers.

This is Nephi – who heard the words of his father’s dream and prophecies, and, instead of complaining that they were hard to understand, pondered them and asked the Lord for clarity. Because of his faith, he beheld a dream that gave him a sure and special witness of Jesus Christ and the future.

This is Nephi – who encouraged his brethren time and time again to turn to the Lord.

This is Nephi – who, had kept all of the commandments of God and had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly.

Nephi didn’t murmur or complain. He didn’t drag his feet. He was faithful and courageous…and he broke his bow.

Wasn’t the challenge of journeying to a promised land already difficult enough?!?! Nephi didn’t deserve more trials. And look – his brothers were actually being faithful! Now, they are being afflicted again, with the lack of food while in the middle of a physically demanding journey.

I’m sure that you are familiar with this kind of situation. It happens all the time. We face challenges. It is common to expect that afflictions will come to us when we break the commandments. So many of the commandments are given to us to keep us safe. It makes sense that we would be “punished” or tried when we aren’t living worthy of the Lord’s guidance.

But that’s the thing – Nephi and his family were living faithfully. They were being guided by the Liahona. They were working hard and they were on the move. And then, he faces this challenge – even when they are already in such challenging circumstances.

Richard G. Scott taught:

““May I share some suggestions with you who face … the testing that a wise Heavenly Father determines is needed even when you are living a worthy, righteous life and are obedient to His commandments.

“Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain” – Richard G. Scott

Yikes. I don’t like that – discomfort and pain. It is obvious that Nephi and his family were experience intense discomfort, which was exacerbated by Nephi breaking his bow.

Murmuring can be Contagious

As a result of this unfortunate event, Nephi’s brothers start to complain. They are angry with Nephi. They want food.

Nephi and his brothers return to their father, and the angry attitude exhibited by the brothers starts to spread. In fact, even Lehi complains against God.

If I take the time to think about that for myself, it is a good reminder on one reason why it is important to maintain a positive and faithful attitude. A murmuring and unfaithful attitude can infect others and bring them down. Complaining may feel good in the moment. We like to call it “venting,” but in my experience, this “venting” usually only begets more anger and frustration – more murmuring, and more “venting.”

What’s the point?! I’ve been in situations where people are frustrated with their predicaments to the point that they are murmuring against God. And you know what – it stinks! It is so hard to ward off that negativity and remain positive.

My life, right now, isn’t all that different than Nephi’s. In fact, most of us can relate to Nephi in one way or another. Many of us are on our own “journeys” to the promised land. In my life, I need the guidance of my Heavenly Father. I don’t have the luxury to murmur and complain. I don’t have the luxury to be around people who will mess up my good vibe with their murmuring and complaining. I imagine that it was the same for Nephi.

I mean, he was hungry, too! And now, he’s surrounded by people who are complaining. Their complaints lack faith, but are probably justified in their minds because of what they consider the “reality” of the situation. They are starving!

Even though they may feel justified, I have to ask again, What’s the point??? What good did it really do for Laman or Lemuel or Lehi to murmur? How did it improve their situation? It was a complete waste of time and energy.

Thankfully Nephi had kept an eye of faith. Unfortunately, he had to waste some time to buoy up his brothers. But he did. And then, because of his faithful attitude, because of his positivity, he was able to find a solution.

Imagine if Nephi had given in to the negativity and murmuring? I think that we could safely guess that if Nephi had given into the “venting,” the anger, the complaints, then…we wouldn’t have this record. They wouldn’t have made it to the promised land. They might have starved to death right there – in some random place on the Arabian Peninsula near the borders of the Red Sea.

They didn’t have that luxury! This was a life-or-death situation! They needed to remain positive and close to the Spirit, or die. If Nephi had given into the temptation to be frustrated, then all of the work – all of the trials, all of the journeying, all of the trips back to Jerusalem – all of it would have been a waste because they would have wasted away in the wilderness.

Thankfully, Nephi stayed in a positive state – one that made him worthy of the guidance, comfort, and companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because he wasn’t wasting his time complaining, he thought of a solution:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?” – 1 Nephi 16:23

One last thing.

This is such a simple solution. I mean, it’s almost like a Duh solution. And I will admit that I’ve even wondered, why did it take them so long to figure that out?! Duh! Make a bow! Get some food!

And that’s the thing – usually there are pretty simple solutions to our problems. But if we are so overcome with worry, fear, and doubting our God, we cloud our vision. We become blind to the obvious answers around us.

Instead, if we want to be able to find solutions during the challenges of our lives, we need to remain calm. We need to see the situation objectively – rather than feel that it is a personal slight against us from God. We need to pray that our perspectives can be broadened. As we take this calm and rational approach, then we will be able to see clearly. The Lord will help to direct our paths so we can find solutions – even in the middle of excruciatingly difficult trials.

There is no benefit to negativity or murmuring. It is a stupid thing to do. It blinds us. It paralyzes us. We don’t look smarter. We aren’t better off. We will miss the opportunities. We will close our minds and eyes off – making it impossible for us to find the solutions we so desperately need in our lives. There is no benefit to negativity, complaining or murmuring. None. Whatsoever.

So – we need to stay faithful. Even when our faith leads us on a road that feels difficult. Even when our faith seems to allow for problems and challenges. We need to remember that the faithful path is uphill. The Lord is bringing us to higher ground. There will be obstacles, and this isn’t a personal slight against us. It’s just the way it is.

Staying positive and faithful is the only way to keep our vision. Keeping our faith keeps our eyes – both spiritual and physical open. Because Nephi kept his faith, his entire family was saved. He found a solution. They got food. They made it to the promised land.