Right now, as I read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I’m reading roughly six pages a day so that I can finish it by the end of the year.
As I read, I’m also looking for mentions of Jesus Christ – by that name or any of his other titles. I’m looking for things He says, and things that we learn about Him.
You learn a lot about the Savior in six whole pages of the Book of Mormon – too much for me to really write about and ponder in one sitting. So, I just pick one thing that really stands out to me and study it.
Today, I’m really interested in something that Nephi teaches us about how the Savior works in our lives.
Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson
First, though a bit of background…Nephi had just finished having the vision where he learned the interpretation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. He learned about Christ’s birth, life, and death. He learned about the scattering and gathering of Israel. He saw the rise and then the fall of his own civilization in the promised land.
After this amazing vision, he went to the tent of his father, where his brothers were all arguing with each other.
Nephi was kind of stressed out because of some of the things that he saw in his vision (the complete collapse of his people). He finally asks his brothers what they are arguing about. And we read:
“And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” – 1 Nephi 15:7
Nephi asks them the obvious thing – Had they inquired of the Lord. Of course they hadn’t. Nephi asks them a few questions…How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of God? and How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
Okay. And then we get to the point of today’s post. As Nephi speaks to his brothers, we learn about the Savior. We read:
“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” – 1 Nephi 15:11
This isn’t just Nephi’s opinion of the matter. This isn’t Nephi asking his brothers “how is it that…” This is Nephi reminding his brothers of what the Lord, Himself had taught and promised.
The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers
Let’s look at this in reverse. At the end, Nephi states, “surely these things shall be made known unto you.”
The result is that they will know.
There are loads of other scriptures offering this same promise. Here is what the Savior said when He gave the Sermon on the Mount:
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8
Again, let’s look at the result:
- it shall be given you
- ye shall find
- it shall be opened
- everyone that asketh receiveth
- he that seeketh findeth
- to him that knocketh it shall be opened
It sounds like a good deal here. Before we even approach the Lord, we can rest assured that the Lord wants to answer our prayers. So – now let’s see what we need to do in order to qualify for such a blessing.
Harden Not Your Hearts
First, we have to have a soft heart. What does this mean? Well, let’s check the dictionary.
Hard hearted: Lacking in sympathetic understanding, unfeeling, pitiless – Merriam-Webster
Stubbornness. That could also be a way to describe what hard heartedness is.
All I know is, the Lord can help us with our heart condition. He doesn’t expect us to simply soften it ourselves. We soften it by turning our hearts to Him, and then He does the softening. We read in 1 Nephi:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16, emphasis added
Nephi turned to the Lord, and the Lord helped to make Nephi’s heart soft, pliable ground – fertile for faith.
This is how we must go to the Lord – willing, more than anything else. He will soften our heart. And a soft heart is essential if we want to have answers to our prayers – if we want to understand more of the will and mysteries of God in our lives.
Ask Me In Faith
Asking in faith is more than asking. Asking in faith means we believe – we believe in God’s power. We believe in His ability to answer our prayers. And, I think most importantly of all, we believe and accept the answers that we receive.
I used to think that If I had enough faith then I would just get whatever it is what I wanted. Slowly, I’m learning that faith is indeed moving forward as a creator in my own life, and then if I don’t get exactly what I want, believing and trusting in God – that what I have received is actually what will best answer my prayers and put me on a course headed to Him and the happiness He offers each of us.
So – We must not harden our hearts, and we must develop faith. Then we are led to the next point:
Believing that Ye Shall Receive
What is the point of asking if we don’t believe it will happen anyway? What kind of faith are we expressing if we don’t believe we will receive?
This is obvious, and we might not all be that skeptical.
But maybe this happens in our lives in a more subtle way. I was thinking of a metaphor recently.
Sometimes life is like making a cake, but we don’t know how to do it. So we go to the Lord, and He instructs us how to make a cake – one step at a time. Each step is a leap of faith – you receive the instruction to cream together butter and sugar, and after this first step (but before you understand how it fits in to the whole cake-making operation), you think – AHHH! This isn’t a cake! And now – look at my butter! It’s ruined.
Of course, it isn’t. You just aren’t finished with the cake.
The cake making endeavor takes a bit of faith – you “ruin” plenty of ingredients – beating eggs, butter, sugar, and flour…and then placing them into the oven hoping that the heat will magically make this mess of batter into something delectable.
You do the work, you wait while it cooks, and then the buzzer dings – time to get out the cake! When it’s a cake, it’s easy to just take it out of the oven and then enjoy it. But sometimes in life, we get to that point where it’s time to take out the cake, and we might think that we don’t deserve it!
I think that I have fallen into this trap – that yes the Lord is capable of blessing me, but that I shouldn’t expect the blessing. I sometime mistakenly think that suffering and being a “martyr” is somehow more saintly than receiving.
In this way, there are times when I subtly ask, but I don’t really believe that I’ll receive.
We stop ourselves short. We might have a soft heart. We might have faith. But we don’t believe that we should receive – what follows? Perhaps self-sabotage, or perhaps a refusal of the blessing that the Lord extends to us.
In any case, we need to believe that we shall receive, and then be ready to receive when the Lord gives us answer to our prayers.
With Diligence in Keeping my Commandments
This is important for so many reasons. Of course, first of all – the diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord is a demonstration of our soft hearts, faith, and belief that we shall receive. So it is important.
I think that diligence in keeping the commandments also helps us to remain worthy for the answer of prayers (having a soft heart, faith, and belief that we will receive aren’t one-time checklist items. It’s a continuous effort).
But…here’s another thing…Two scriptures:
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” – Doctrine and Covenants 82:10
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” – Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21
Another important aspect of commandment keeping is that it might just be how our prayer is answered! There are times, as we seek the Lord diligently, He gives us impressions and promptings – personal commandments. Often, we see these things as a test of our faith, and I suppose in a way they are.
However, they might also be the way to have the blessing we desire. God cannot bless us willy-nilly. He is governed by universal laws, and He has let us know this fact in the Doctrine and Covenants. If we want to be blessed, then we need to keep the law upon which that blessing is predicated.
And, if we do what the Lord says, then He is bound to bless us accordingly.
So – keeping the commandments not only keeps us soft hearted, faithful, and believing that we will receive – keeping the commandments may just be the way that the Lord is able to answer our prayers.
Now, I realize that this scripture isn’t really about a specific characteristic of Christ. Instead, it is a promise that the Savior has made to us. But I think that by looking at this promise – that the Lord will answer our prayers – helps us to understand more about the Savior. He wants to empower us. He wants to bless us with knowledge. And He has instructed us how to access more understanding and power in our lives.
Nephi is an example of this. He did just as the Lord instructed. He softened his heart. He asked the Savior in faith. He believed he would receive. He kept the commandments – general and personal – that the Father had given Him…and he received according to his righteous desires.
I’m grateful to know that we have a God who loves us. He isn’t arbitrary or power hungry. He isn’t moody or irrational. He lives according to a set of laws that He has also given to each of us. We can know more of His mysteries and live a better life, if we simply seek Him and ask. In fact, He aches to be able to answer our prayers, which is why He has pled with us to ask, seek, and knock.
Instead of making the assumption that “he taketh no such thing known unto us,” and then not asking in the first place, we can follow this pattern set forth by Nephi to access the influence of the Lord in our lives.