Peace as a River (1 Nephi 20:18)

When we hearken to the commandments of God, we are filled with peace and righteousness. This sounds like a joyful situation to me.

Nephi quotes Isaiah:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” – 1 Nephi 20:18

I like that. Peace as a river. Righteousness as the waves of the sea.

River
I recently went to a river and waterfall in the mountains. This has been a wet year, and it was rushing with water. The sound of it nearly demands peace. I mean, of course I snapped a few pictures, but for the most part I was transfixed by the sound of the running water.

It was peaceful.

I stood there, watching the water. It is such a miracle. It started in the mountains. No, it started in the sky, then fell to the earth onto mountain tops. These streams and rivers carried the water down the mountains and into lakes and eventually seas. All along the way, these little streams nourish and sustain all life. The wildflowers, the trees, the birds, the frogs. and let’s not forget – you and me.

Peace as a river.

Waves of the Sea
I’ve been blessed to be able to live by the sea. And the waves. That’s the best part, isn’t it?

I didn’t grow up by the ocean. I’ve been loads of times, but I hadn’t ever lived by the ocean until last year. One night, my husband and I were walking along the beach in the evening. It was dark. No one was out. We saw a seal. People were inside or at restaurants. Long gone were kids making sandcastles, people surfing, or soaking the sun.

For a split second, I thought, “the day is over, but the ocean is still going.” haha! Yes. The waves are still going. They will for as long as there is an earth. Every minute of every day. Sometimes the waves may be small, gentle, lapping waves. Other times, especially in places like Oahu’s North Shore, the waves may be 30′ tall displaying unfathomable power.

Either way, they never stop.

***
When we hearken and obey the commandments of God, we can have peace like a river. Our righteousness can become steady like the waves of the sea.

I’m not always the best at doing all I need to do, but this scripture brings me hope, peace, and motivation to continue to Hearken.

Paths, Obstacles, and Joy

The families of Lehi and Ishmael left Jerusalem around 600 BC. They were heading to an unknown promised land, but had to venture through the wilderness before arriving. The trip took about eight years.

This voyage through the wilderness was fraught with toil and affliction, and after some time into the journey, Ishmael passed away.

The death of Ishmael brings sorrow. In the Book of Mormon, we read:

“And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom.” – 1 Nephi 16:34

It is worth noting that “Nahom” means consolation – to be sorry, or to console one’s self.

The death of Ishmael is difficult for morale. He was the patriarch of his family. The daughters mourn pretty vocally. And I can see why it would be so hard. Ishmael and his family had left Jerusalem – to escape destruction and death. They were going to a promised land.

It is so easy to start the path to the promised lands of our lives, but the thing is, the greater the reward, the more difficult the path. Regardless of where we are headed, we are all headed for trials and adversity. It’s a part of life.

So – we know that death = misery and life = joy. People tend to make choices that reflect this sensibility. We put on seat belts, we wear helmets, we cut sugar. We don’t want to die. We do what we can to avoid dangerous situations while still striving to live an abundant life.

Yet there are times when during our lives – even when we’re on the right path – we’re exposed to difficulties that nearly feel like death and danger. For Lehi and Ishmael’s family – they left the general safety of their lives in Jerusalem and went into the wilderness. The wilderness, compared to their homes, might have felt like a death trap! They couldn’t imagine the impending destruction of Jerusalem (and the danger that would accompany this hostile takeover), but they were directly experiencing physical challenges in the desert. Food was scarce. Temperatures probably reached extreme highs and lows. Danger lurked everywhere in the desert. It would be natural to want to flee this circumstance. It doesn’t seem joyful or life-sustaining.

And that’s the thing we learn from Lehi and Ishmael’s experiences. This was the path to happiness. This obstacle – of the wilderness – was the way to the promised land. It doesn’t seem intuitive – that such suffering will result in joy. Still, sometimes we have to go through these hellish, sorrowful experiences in order to make it to our joy.

I believe that there is always joy in the journey. But it is also crucial to identify the fact that there are times when it is hard. We have our own “Nahom” points – when the only option left is for us to console ourselves. But we can take courage. The Lord will not fail us. Though we mourn, we will be comforted. And eventually, we will experience joy that will equal, if not surpass, the pain we experienced along the way.

Religion and Pain

God honors agency – our freedom to choose – so much that He has allowed people to desecrate His name in the worst of ways. We see this all the time. Even right now, there are people who are conspiring to kill innocent unknown enemies in their name of their supposed god.

As a person of faith, I’m so irritated by these wolves in sheep clothing. So many people are turned off by any mention of faith because of those who mask their wickedness in “religion.”

We learn in 1 Nephi:

“And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church.

And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.

And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.

And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.

And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.” – 1 Nephi 13:4-9

Now – this section of scriptures doesn’t refer to any specific church. This “church” refers to anything that seeks to destroy God’s church – His gospel, His love, His hope.

Note what we learn about this “church”:

  • It is abominable
  • The devil is the founder of it (obviously that means it isn’t really God’s church, so we shouldn’t judge God based on a church founded by Satan
  • It slays the saints of God – destroying that which is actually good
  • It values riches and the praise of the world more than God or people

This “great and abominable church” has been a problem for so many people throughout all of history, and I believe that it is probable Satan’s greatest deception – doing all of this evil the name of a so-called God. No wonder so many people are turned off by religion.

But, in truth, the gospel of the Savior, Jesus Christ is good news. It elevates. It is Christ’s church. It brings us life and joy. It doesn’t value the praise of men or the riches of the world. It values the true abundant life – rich with blessings and joy.

Don’t Confuse Pleasure with Joy (1 Nephi 11:36)

“And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – 1 Nephi 11:35-36

So – in this verse, Nephi is learning about the interpretation of his father, Lehi’s dream. Lehi had seen a great and spacious building. This building is full of people. It sounds like a pretty good time:

“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:27

The people are looking good. They’re having a good laugh at the expense of those who are on the “strait and narrow.” I don’t know, but I’ve always imagined this great and spacious building as a giant party or something. The people are dressed very nicely, and I’m guessing that they are doing all of the things that will give them pleasure and satisfaction.

I mean, the great and spacious building – not the building itself, but the people inside it and its representation – is extremely alluring. Even after partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, some people are ashamed and want to go to the great and spacious building. Many people wander off and become lost – all so they can get into this elusive, beautiful, magnificent building – with its beautiful, magnificent and posh people.

Now, though things seem to be going great for the people in the great and spacious building, it is floating in the air, and soon enough it crashes to the ground. And, as the angel states, “the fall thereof was exceedingly great.”

So – let’s read between the lines. What would happen if a great and spacious building, full of reveling people – dressed nicely and having a good laugh – falls? What would happen to those people? Yikes. It all becomes a little less alluring.

Satan’s way, though glittering and attractive, is ultimately death and misery.

Joy is simple. It is steadfast. It is comfort during trial. It is not glittering or sexy. It is pure. It is sweet. And it is enduring. The joy that comes from God is His pure love, and it endures forever.

It’s easy to be confused. We are natural beings and therefore have natural desires. But Satan’s way, no matter how it is packaged, no matter how much pleasure you can take in the moment, always ends the same way – shattered, a puff of smoke, and illusion that leaves you with misery and pain.

The Fruit of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8:10, 12)

“And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:10-12

This is such a simple and quintessential scripture on joy in the Book of Mormon.

Lehi, the ancient prophet had a dream (you can read about it in 1 Nephi 8). In this dream he sees the tree of life – which is bearing fruit. Immediately he knows that this fruit is desirable.

The fruit is sweet. Sounds good.

And the fruit fills his soul with joy.

I think that it is easy to relate to Lehi. We are all seeking joy and happiness, right? Who doesn’t want to have joy in their lives?

Lehi is looking, then sees the tree of life. It takes some work, but he partakes, and he isn’t let down.

This dream is more than some silly night vision. It is a parable, a metaphor. As inhabitants of this earth, we yearn for a better world. We yearn for joy and happiness in our lives. And it is available to us. Heavenly Father has provided the fruit of eternal life for each of us and a way to partake of it. Through the Atonement of the Savior and through His words, we can also eat this fruit – sweeter and more desirable than any other fruit.

I mean, I just ate a pretty incredible mango. Imagine this fruit that God offers us. Yum.

Murmuring – Not for the Joyful (1 Nephi 2:12)

“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

I like thinking about happiness and joy a lot. In fact, as I read the Book of Mormon this time through, I’m focusing on happiness and joy.

This verse is not directly about happiness nor is it about joy. But it can give you an insight on both.

Personally, when I think of “murmuring,” it doesn’t seem like a particularly joyful attribute. Think about the truly happy and joyful people you know. And then think of how often they complain.

If you’re like me, then you’re coming up short.

Following this logic then, we can deduce that Laman and Lemuel probably weren’t very happy people. They show this lack of joy through their murmuring attitude.

And why did they murmur?

Because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

Every once in a while a single verse packs a big punch. This verse is one of them. We learn a secret to life in this verse: if we want to murmur and complain less, then get to know God.

I know that this principle is true. Murmuring and the lack of joy that it indicates is really a signal of a much bigger problem: not knowing our Father in Heaven. Conversely, when we know God, we can go through temptations and trials without murmuring. This is because we know God, we trust Him, and we trust that in whatever we are experiencing, we will be blessed. We trust in the power of the Atonement – and that through the power of the Atonement all that is unjust in this world will be made right.

Daily Book of Mormon Blog

I already blog a bit. But I’ve been thinking about this idea over and over again, and I feel like I’ll just do it.

Study the Book of Mormon along with me.

I’ll post a thought from the Book of Mormon each day. Other than that, I don’t really know. So yeah – we’ll see how this goes. I hope you have fun. And definitely join along with me if you’d like.