Courage from Scriptures – 1 Nephi 4:1-6

You can read today’s scripture block here – 1 Nephi 4:1-6

Context and General Information

  • Nephi tries to encourage his brothers to do as the angel said and go back into Jerusalem to obtain the plates.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of Moses who delivered Israel from Egypt.
  • Nephi makes the connection – the same God that delivered Israel has promised to deliver them.
  • Laman and Lemuel are murmuring. They are wroth. They begrudgingly go with Nephi and Sam to the walls of Jerusalem.
  • Laman, Lemuel, and Sam hid themselves. Nephi crept into the city of Jerusalem without a plan, only with the Spirit.

A Source of Nephi’s Courage

There is a song – widely sung – by the young children of the Mormon Church.

Nephi’s Courage
The Lord commanded Nephi to go and get the plates
From the wicked Laban inside the city gates.
Laman and Lemuel were both afraid to try
Nephi was courageous, this was his reply:
I will go!
I will do!
The thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way,
He wants me to obey.
I will go!
I will do!
The thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way,
He wants me to obey.

If you are not Mormon, I’ll give you a bit of insight. Nephi was a prophet – not unlike the prophets of the Bible. He was faithful as a young man, and then grew to be a great prophet of God. His family was led out of Jerusalem by God to the American continent around 600 years before the coming of Christ.

Nephi was courageous. We Mormons talk about it. We sing about it. I grew up a Mormon, and I think that there were times when I didn’t really understand. In a way, I think that I sold Nephi short.

Nephi was courageous, yes, but this is something he cultivated. He wasn’t just magically more courageous and faithful than his brothers or you or me. He was a normal dude who made choices that grew softened his heart, grew his faith, and gave him courage.

One – Prayer
In 1 Nephi 2, we read:

“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

This is the first thing we learn about how Nephi developed his courage. He desired and he prayed. I go into greater detail about this here.

Through earnest prayer, the Lord softened Nephi’s heart.

Two – Exercise Faith
Another way that Nephi develops faith and courage is by exercising it. Nephi’s approach to his faith is not merely conceptual. In 1 Nephi 3, he is asked to put his faith to the test by going back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass.

Nephi’s immediate response:

“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

Nephi declares that he knows the Lord will support him in keeping the commandments, then Nephi goes to Jerusalem to exercise this very knowledge.

Three – The Scriptures
Nephi still has to put his faith to the test, as he and his brothers have been unsuccessful in getting the plates of brass twice.

It would be so easy to be demoralized, defeated, and disheartened. Nephi has been the one to be excited about fulfilling this errand of the Lord’s. He boldly testified that he knew that the Lord would give no commandment to the children of men without a way to keep that commandment. Yet so far, they have not been able to do what they were commanded to do.

Now, because of Nephi’s faith (which I’m sure that Laman and Lemuel might have taken for naïveté), they have no money and they have a man who is actively trying to kill them.

Yet, Nephi doesn’t back down. Laman and Lemuel murmur. I have to guess that this had the potential to break Nephi. Even though Nephi doesn’t have the support of his brothers, he finds support in the scriptures.

Nephi said to his brothers:

“Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.

Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.” – 1 Nephi 4:2-3

Nephi not only knows the stories of the scriptures, but he applies them to himself. This gives him strength and hope.

One last thing – it is important for us to read the scriptures in a way that helps us to remember the reality of these stories. Nephi didn’t have some kind of false modesty – thinking The Lord helped Moses, but he can’t help me. Moses was a mighty prophet, and I’m just a boy.

I think a lot of us do it. We shroud ourselves in false modesty saying, “I’m not worthy of such and such…” And we forget that the power of God is extended to anyone and everyone who will choose to be faithful!

Nephi doesn’t feel like he can’t get help. He uses the scriptures exactly as they are intended – to support and strengthen him to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.

We need to have a similar approach. Instead of making our prophets into mythical beings, we need to remember that they were real – they had struggles, they had to build their faith over time. Were they great men and women – yes. But not in some unfair way. They were great because they turned to the Lord, and the Lord made them great.

I know that Heavenly Father sees all of us not only as we are and were, but what we have the potential to be. I know that he gives us commandments and allows us to experiences various adversities and blessings so that we can fulfill the measure of our creation. I know that as we do so, we are filled with joy.

I know that courageousness is not limited to Nephi. We can learn from him – we can pray, we can exercise our faith, and we can center our faith on the experiences that the Lord has had with others to give us the courage we need as we negotiate our own faith building experiences.

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Risks and Even More Failure – 1 Nephi 3:22-31

Context and General Information

  • Nephi and his brothers go down to their home in Jerusalem and gather up all of their precious things.
  • They take their stuff to Laban to essentially “buy” the brass plates.
  • Laban sees their property, lusts after it, then kicks Nephi and his brothers out and sends soldiers after them.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi escape, but all of their precious things fall into the hands of Laban.
  • Laman and Lemuel are angry with Nephi after this failed attempt. They say mean things to him and Sam, and then they beat up Nephi and Sam with a rod.
  • An angel appears, stops Laman and Lemuel from beating Nephi and Sam, and then promises that if they try again, the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands.
IMG_4172

This picture has nothing to do with the post really, but it is pretty…

Risk

And when I write risk, I mean big risk.

Nephi, earlier in chapter 3, spends a bit of time persuading his brothers to try again to obtain the plates. He comes up with an idea – to “buy” the plates from Laban. They have resources – the precious things that they left behind when they fled into the wilderness.

We read:

“And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.

And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.

And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.” – 1 Nephi 3:22-24

It’s so easy to overlook this risk because (if you are Mormon and if you are familiar with the story of Nephi) we know the ending. We know that Nephi will get the plates of brass. We know that Nephi and his family will make it to the promised land. We know that Nephi will live after the manner of happiness.

But those successes come later.

In the moment, when Nephi thought of the idea to go back, gather up all of their gold, silver, and precious things, Nephi didn’t know – other than God had promised – how, if, or when they would get the plates, make it to the promised land, etc.

So, this is a big risk. Or at least if you look at it without spiritual eyes (the way that Laman and Lemuel did) it is a big risk.

I wonder how Laman and Lemuel felt when they left Jerusalem in the first place. Were they thinking, “This is weird, but we’ll be back in Jerusalem before the end of the month.”??? In the back of their minds, maybe they were comforted because they knew that they still had a home and ample of resources in Jerusalem. Maybe they thought that if they needed to, they could steal away into the night, leave the wilderness, and go back to the land of their inheritance and they would be fine – with all of their gold, silver, and precious things.

Now, with Nephi’s suggestion, things are getting really real. Yes, it would help them to get the plates of brass. However, after that they will have nothing left. They won’t have resources. They won’t have riches. They won’t have a way out of the wilderness if they decide to come back. They are burning every bridge that they have in Jerusalem.

But they take the risk.

And then…they fail…

“And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.

And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban.” – 1 Nephi 3:25-26

This situation has the potential to be pretty demoralizing. It is for Laman and Lemuel:

“And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.” – 1 Nephi 3:28

Laman and Lemuel were so frustrated – with Nephi with Lehi with the entire situation – that they take it out on Nephi and Sam physically – by beating them with a rod.

And, if we go back to what we learned in 1 Nephi 2, that those who don’t know the dealings of their creator murmur (see 1 Nephi 2:12), then it is easy to see why Laman and Lemuel react the way that they did.

Now – it seems like every bridge is burned. Laban wants to kill Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. And, now that Laban has illegally seized all of their stuff, I’m sure that he is even more insistent on killing the sons of Lehi – to keep himself out of trouble!

The people of Jerusalem want to kill Lehi.

All of Lehi’s family’s riches and resources are gone.

It seems that they have nothing left. No opportunities, no resources, nothing.

Yet that isn’t true. They do have something left. And that something is more powerful and effective than any opportunity or resource.

As the angel declared:

“…Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.” – 1 Nephi 3:29

Though they have no money, though there are soldiers out looking to take their lives, though they have made enemies with a powerful man, they have the backing of the Lord. And he commands them, through the voice of His angel, to go back to Jerusalem and get the plates.

***

We read about Laman and Lemuel’s response:

“And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” – 1 Nephi 3:31

Often, we criticize Laman and Lemuel, how could they murmur after seeing an angel?!

It’s probably good to think about it because we may be guilty of the same exact thing in our own lives.

  • As mentioned before, all resources have been exhausted
  • As mentioned before, there are people who want Laman and Lemuel dead. They have been chased out of town and barely escaped with their lives!
  • Let’s look at this from the beginning. Laman and Lemuel didn’t really want to go to Jerusalem in the first place. They thought that Lehi was crazy and that going back to get the plates was too hard. Yet somehow they are convinced to go.
  • They fail in getting the plates twice – they fail miserably. These failures probably reinforce their original thought – it is a hard thing that Lehi has required of them!
  • Now God says that He will help, but so far he hasn’t. Will it really be different?

Faith. It’s a choice. Sometimes it’s a hard choice.

One more time the Lord is asking them to take a risk – go back to Jerusalem. This time, going into Jerusalem to get the plates is riskier than it ever has been.

But…really…what is riskier?

I’m fairly convinced that the riskiest thing we can do is ignore the promptings of the Spirit – to ignore our personal commandments. Yes, often when we choose to get on the Lord’s path, it is challenging. It requires sacrifice. It seems risky. We might have to give up all we own, we might have to move out of town. We might be staking our reputation. These are the sacrifices and they seem risky when we think we are navigating this life alone.

But it is far riskier to rely on our own strength and ignore the Lord.

So – yes. Nephi’s second attempt was a risk. And it was a failure…in the short term. But, he risked nothing. His life, his resources, his reputation is nothing without God.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Nephi understands, and we can learn from this story that following God – though we may have to give up our lives – is worth every so called sacrifice. And that ignoring the Lord’s promptings – thought it may seem like the “safer” thing to do – is the riskiest and stupidest thing we could ever attempt in this life.

Yes, Laban commands fifty and can slay fifty. But the Lord created Laban. The Lord grants us daily breath. The Lord is the surest thing in our lives. So, following His commandments, no matter what they ask of us, is always worth the risk.

Persuasion – 1 Nephi 3:21

Context and General Information

  • Nephi persuades his brothers to give obtaining the brass plates another try.

009 D&C 121 41 Persuasion

Persuasion

So – we are spending time on verse 21 today. And we’ll read through a few of the preceding verses as well. I’m somewhat fascinated by the idea of persuasion. It’s a tool – that can be used for good or for bad.

Actually, I’m really fascinated by both persuasion and discernment. I don’t want to be persuaded by someone who is evil, so discernment is crucial.

However, there are times when persuasion is a good thing – even though in some ways being persuasive seems a little manipulative to me.

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:41

Here, we read that persuasion works in connection with long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love.

And we can learn from Nephi about how to be persuasive, as he has persuaded his brothers to buck up even after their first failure in attempting to obtain the plates.

  1. Nephi reminded them of their commitment to obtaining the plates. – This reminder of commitment to a commandment isn’t just some casual thing. I think that it is a reminder of our covenants.

    “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 20:77

    This is an ordinance and a covenant that baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participate in nearly each week.

    We remember the Son of God – and his body that was sacrificed for us. We then promise to be willing to take on His name, always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given to us.

    Lehi had been commanded to flee Jerusalem. And his sons had been commanded to return and get the plates of brass.

    So, when Nephi says:

    “As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.” – 1 Nephi 3:15

    When Nephi says this to his brothers, he doesn’t consider obtaining the plates some kind of optional task. It is a commandment from God. Nephi is a covenant keeping man, which means he will also keep all of the commandments God has given him – both general and personal.

    By stating this, Nephi is also appealing to the covenants that Laman and Lemuel have made with the Lord. I suppose this can be persuasive because it will cause us to look inward. If we have any intention of keeping our covenants, then a reminder of them is a good persuasion tactic.

    (Oh…and by the way, Nephi isn’t being a jerk about it, either. Remember – persuasion must be done with long-suffering and love unfeigned). It’s a simple reminder. It almost seems like Nephi is even reminding himself of his covenants. This serves as motivation to push on even in the face of failure and sorrow.

  2. Nephi has an idea. Not only is Nephi persuasive, but part of his being persuasive includes a possible solution.

    NOTE: I DON’T THINK THAT WHEN WE ARE PERSUADING OTHERS WE HAVE TO TRY TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS!

    I mean, this was Nephi’s problem, too. When Lehi, for example, gave his sons the command to get the plates of brass, he didn’t tell them what to do. The sons consulted with each other.

    As a parent, I think that this is important – I can’t always solve my children’s problems. Of course, I can consult with them and give them ideas, but always with the caveat that they need to be close to the spirit and do as it prompts.

    In any case, this is just as much Nephi’s problem as it is his brothers. And Nephi is trying not only to lift his brothers’ spirits but also his own. So he offers an idea – let’s go back home, where we left all of our riches behind because of the commandments of the Lord.

  3. Nephi Remembers – Nephi remembers, and takes his time recounting to his brothers why they left Jerusalem in the manner that they did.

    Lehi knew, thanks to Heavenly Father, that Jerusalem must be destroyed. Why? Because of the wickedness of the people.

    The people of Jerusalem had rejected their own prophets. If Lehi had continued to live in Jerusalem, he would have perished. The Lord didn’t want that for Lehi. Lehi had another mission to fulfill in his life. So, the Lord commanded him to leave.

    Nephi remembers. Of course, this is another huge part of our own covenants – to always remember Him – our Savior. It means more than just remembering His death. It also means remembering our interactions with Him.

    Nephi is remembering the interactions that Heavenly Father had with Lehi, and why they even left Jerusalem in the first place. Remembering gives him context and purpose.

    When we help others to remember, it will do the same. It will give context and purpose. It also plants fertile ground for the Holy Ghost to testify. Which, is the key ingredient in righteous persuasion.

  4. Nephi explains why this commandment was given and should be kept – When Lehi told Nephi that they needed to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass, he explained:

    “For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.” – 1 Nephi 3:3

    Somewhere between that point and when Nephi is talking to his brothers, he realizes another critical reason for the plates. He explained to his brothers:

    “And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;

    And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.” – 1 Nephi 3:19-20

    There is a purpose for them to retrieve the plates:

    • to preserve their language
    • to preserve their religion

    This commandment – to obtain the plates – isn’t some willy-nilly task given by an arbitrary God. Nephi is able to highlight the purpose of God’s commands – which helps his brothers to buck up and trust God. If we are trying to be persuasive – to our children, for example – then it often helps if we remind them of the purpose of certain commandments.

Persuasion, righteous persuasion is an important skill. I am a parent, so I can see the direct impact it has on my life. It is my duty to be persuasive and teach my children! There are other times when we need to be persuasive – in our callings, at our jobs, etc.

Nephi gives us a great example of how to be persuasive. He was the youngest brother. “exceedingly young.” Despite his youth, his persuasion tactics are smart and successful. Nephi doesn’t strong arm his brothers (even though he is large in stature). Nephi doesn’t manipulate his brothers. Nephi isn’t passive aggressive.

Nephi persuades his brothers in a way that lets the Holy Ghost do most of the real persuading. Nephi reminds his brothers of their commitments, he gives them hope by coming up with an idea, Nephi remembers – what they had already learned from the Lord, and then he reminds them of their purpose in fulfilling the given commandment.

Nephi does all this with an optimistic, kind, and patient attitude.

And, as we read:

“And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.” – 1 Nephi 3:21

Have you learned how to be persuasive? Why do you think it might be important? What do you think of Nephi’s example?

***
By the way…as you can see, I’m not really following the schedule that I typed up a few days ago. I’m sorry. I am not going to fix it either. I don’t want to be forced into following a schedule. I want to be able to explore more if I need to – like I did today. So, I’ll try my best to just say what we’ll read tomorrow..without the guarantee that it will even be accurate! haha! But I will promise you that every day there will be something on this blog and that it will still follow the Book of Mormon. Thanks a lot!

Obtaining the Plates and Responding to Failure – 1 Nephi 3:8-21

Context and General Information

  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam go down to Jerusalem. They cast lots to see who will approach Laban for the Brass Plates.
  • Laman is chosen to ask. He goes to Laban to ask for the plates, and his life is threatened by Laban. Laman fled to his brothers in safety.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam are sorrowful. Nephi’s brothers want to return to their father.
  • Nephi persuades his brother to give obtaining the plates another chance

Obtaining the Brass Plates – Attempt 1 (Arbitrary)

Nephi and his brothers have decided to make the journey back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass from Laban. They traveled and consulted with one another. The plan went as follows:

“And we cast lots—who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman; and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house.

And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father.” – 1 Nephi 3:11-12

 

It’s a simple plan, and it was relatively arbitrary. They might have discussed strengths and weaknesses of each person. They might have talked about persuasion tactics. They might have had a conversation on possible ways to get the plates and possible outcomes of each attempt.

I don’t know.

What I do know is what Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam decided – to cast lots. It’s kind of arbitrary. Now, I don’t want to discredit the sons of Lehi. Casting lots was not uncommon in ancient times. People believed that it wasn’t just some arbitrary game of luck or coincidence. They believed that the fate of the cast lot was the will of God.

In any case, this attempt still has an arbitrary feel to it. The lot fell to Laman, so he went to Laban.

Oh – that’s the other thing about this plan. Very simple. Just go and ask. But why not? It makes sense. This is their first attempt. Perhaps it would have been successful, and if it had, then why waste energy on some convoluted plot to get the plates? Laman decides to simply ask. The response that followed was not what Laman was expecting, or at least hoping…

“And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.” – 1 Nephi 3:13

Laban refused.

Does this mean that this was a failed attempt? A waste of time? I don’t think so. Because of this attempt, Laban has the right to either say yes or no. The Lord doesn’t usurp Laban’s agency! He could have said yes. Who knows – maybe he would have said yes and then gone to the promised land, too.

It’s not worth speculating, I know. But it is worth recognizing that this first attempt though not fruitful was critical. Laban had the chance to make a choice. And he made a choice. We see that Laban is easily provoked. We see that he is willing to threaten another man’s life based on a simple question. We see that Laban is also dishonest. Laman is not a robber, but Laban has no problem spinning the situation so he can get whatever it is he wants.

Responding to Failure…fight or flight?

After Laban threatens Laman’s life, he fled:

“But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 3:14

What did Laman do in the face of pressure and failure? He fled!

Now, I’m not saying that it was wrong for him to get out of the house of Laban. There are times when we need to flee. Think of Joseph – he knew he had to flee from the threat of Potiphar’s wife.

But Laman didn’t only flee from Laban. He also wanted to run back to his father. Laban wanted to flee from his duties and commands because of fear and failure.

When Laman tells his brothers what happen, his fearful vibe is infections – “And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful….”

I find this interesting. WE – means that even Nephi was feeling sorrowful. I have to wonder, what is my response to failure? Sorrow? And is this a helpful response?

Nephi doesn’t stay sorrowful that long. Instead, he finds faith and persuades his brothers also to have faith. This failure even helps to inform them on another way to obtain the plates. This failure isn’t a failure as much as it is an iteration, a draft, so to speak.  It was reconnaissance and data. The failure to retrieve the plates after the first attempt is not a statement on the faith, fortitude, or worth of Nephi or his brothers.

It was simply a failed attempt.

It was falling down off a bike when your first learning.

It was something that helped them understand the situation more. And it was a manifestation for God’s mercy and love for Laban. Laban had the choice to give them the plates or not. Additionally, Laban’s refusal helped Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi see just what they were dealing with.

***

This has me wondering – how do I respond to failure? Do I let little failures determine my sorrow or joy? Do I wallow in sorrow and flee from the challenges that have the potential to bring me great joy? Do I find ways to feel strength and encouragement despite an undesired outcome?

The Lord gives us commandments because He loves us. He wants us to have eternal life and exaltation. He wants us to be happy people. He cannot live our lives for us – and still fulfill his desire to let us feel joy. He understands the connection between sacrifice and joy. He knows the law of the harvest. He knows that we feel joy, empowerment, and accomplishment when we are able to successfully navigate various tasks in our lives.

He also knows that in success there is failure. He doesn’t judge us for those failures. He knows that failure is a good way to learn – if we will be humble enough to learn from failure.

Though Nephi and his brothers did not obtain the plates of brass after their first attempt, it was not a failure.

Sacrifice is Hard, but Nothing is Too Hard for God – 1 Nephi 3:1-7

Context and General Information

  • After his experience with the Lord, Nephi goes to his father’s tent.
  • Lehi tells Nephi of a dream that he had – that he needs to send his sons to Jerusalem to get the Plates of Brass from Laban.
  • The Plates of Brass have the genealogy of Lehi’s family and the commandments of the Lord.
  • Laman and Lemuel murmur.
  • Nephi trusts that he will be able to do as the Lord commanded.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam go down to Jerusalem. They cast lots to see who will approach Laban for the Brass Plates.
  • Laman is chosen to ask. He goes to Laban to ask for the plates, and his life is threatened by Laban. Laman fled to his brothers in safety.

Sometimes Sacrifice is Hard

When Lehi tells Nephi that the Lord has commanded them to go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates, Lehi shares his brothers’ feeling about the assignment:

“And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.” –1 Nephi 3:5

I think that it is important to understand this situation as well as we can:

Several nights before, during the night Lehi had a dream and was told to take his family and leave Jerusalem. He obeyed. Lehi packed up his family and only a few provisions. They seemed to have lived a good, abundant life in Jerusalem, and now they are leaving the safety of the city and venturing into a hot and dangerous desert.

As far as I can tell, the only person who received the message – that the family needed to flee Jerusalem – was Lehi. This vision doesn’t come to Sariah or any of the children. In fact, it isn’t until they have journeyed for three days that they even stop to set up a camp. There, Nephi goes to the Lord. Nephi receives his own witness that this is truly a commandment from God, but Laman and Lemuel don’t know, and thy continue to murmur.

We need to understand the situation: the terrain is difficult and dangerous. Sometimes we think of wilderness as something that looks like this:

008 Woods at Huber Grove

This seems wild, but it is probably not an accurate idea of “the wilderness.”

Instead, what Lehi and his family experienced was something that looked a little bit more like this:

007 Wilderness

This doesn’t look like a fun family camping trip.

When we do our best to put ourselves there – in the heat, little water, little shade, etc. It gets a lot easier to see why Laman and Lemuel murmured. In fact, the more I try to think of the conditions of Lehi’s flight from Jerusalem, it is harder to imagine why Nephi didn’t murmur!

This is not an easy sacrifice! This is no promised land. Now that Lehi has escaped Jerusalem, he is being told to send his sons back to get the plates of Brass. It could be a temptation – to give up and go back. But Lehi remains faithful.

The thing that is really impressed on my mind is what Laman and Lemuel said “It is a hard thing…” Lehi doesn’t deny that it is a hard thing. But he says that he didn’t command it, God did.

Lehi doesn’t try to gloss over the challenging nature of this sacrifice. Instead, he reminds Laman and Lemuel that the sacrifice and command came from God.

It’s good for me to remember – sometimes sacrifice is hard! Sometimes we are asked to do hard things. But we can remember that it came from God.

Nothing is Too Hard

Even though we might be asked to do things or make sacrifices that are hard, we can remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

This, of course, requires a basic understanding of our God (which basic knowledge is the antidote to murmuring).

We then read Nephi’s classic, famous response:

“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

Nephi isn’t being a goody-two-shoes here. This isn’t some kind of positivity practice or hopeful thinking. Nephi knows that he can trust God.

Nephi knows that our Heavenly Father isn’t Lucy. (from Charlie Brown!) Heavenly Father won’t set us up to kick the ball, then take it away at the last second, leaving us flat on our backs.

Heavenly Father didn’t command Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem just as some kind of arbitrary test to see if they would be faithful. The Lord isn’t power hungry or bored. The Lord knows what Lehi and his family will need in order for them to successfully set up their own civilization. The Lord knows that Lehi and his family needs the Plates of Brass, so the Lord will help them to do it.

We can also trust the Lord. We can remember that he isn’t Lucy. He isn’t entertained by our efforts, failures, difficulties or trials. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be happy.

So he gives us commandments – which will bring us more joy and closer to the true goal of our lives.

***

Tomorrow’s Assignment: 1 Nephi 3:8-14.

 

 

A Process for Faith – 1 Nephi 2:16-24

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is young.
  • Nephi is swole…I know – it seems like I’m being facetious here. And maybe I kind of am. But he’s a big guy. Recently I taught a group of 16-17 year old kids. I figure that the distinction here is that Nephi was physically developd, but still spiritually developing.
  • Nephi had desire to know the mysteries of God, so he prayed.
  • The Lord softened Nephi’s heart
  • Nephi testifies of his experience to his brothers.
  • The Lord promises Nephi that if he will keep the commandments, then the Lord will prosper him.
  • The Lord warns that if Nephi’s brothers rebel against God, then he will curse them with a sore curse – and that their seed would be a scourge to Nephi’s seed.

The Process of Nephi’s Faith

Yesterday, we read that the reason why Laman and Lemuel rebelled against their Father and the commandments that he had received from God was because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

On the other hand. Nephi did not rebel.

In Mormon culture, Nephi is nearly mythical. Maybe it is because he is large in stature. He slayed a man for the scriptures. He built a boat. His is the first book in the Book of Mormon. There are a few reasons for it, but I think that it is ultimately a disservice to Nephi and to ourselves.

Nephi, though large in stature, though physically developed, didn’t have any unfair or extra advantage to the Spirit or the Lord. It’s not like he was just born good and strong while his brothers were born evil. Nephi is not a two-dimensional character. He isn’t Hercules.

Nephi is a real person who had to go through a real spiritual development. He lets us in on how this started for him.

“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

Before I write the list of the process, it is important to note that age will not inhibit our access to God. Nephi was exceedingly young. I’m guessing that he might have been somewhere in his teens. No one really knows for sure, and really it doesn’t matter. At least it doesn’t matter all that much.

What matters in regards to his age is what it teaches us and what we can even teach our children. God speaks to anyone and everyone if we will seek Him and ask. He doesn’t withhold from us if we are women, teenagers, poor, black, white, in jail, etc. Nephi was exceedingly young, this did not hold him back.

The Process of Faith

  1. Have a great desire to know the mysteries of God. – This is probably the most important step. We need to want to know – we need to have “great desire.”

    I love this because we don’t have to know. We don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way. We don’t even have to have faith.

    We just have to have desire.

  2. Pray – Not only do we need to want to know, but we need to do something about it. Prayer is one of the best actions we can take. Ask God!
  3. The Lord will Soften Our Hearts – Nephi didn’t soften his own heart. The Lord did.

    Again, about Laman and Lemuel, we read:

    “And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

    they knew not…often, I’ve thought of that as an accusation against Laman and Lemuel’s conscious knowledge. I’ve thought it meant that they didn’t really read the scriptures.

    Yet, this idea is incomplete. Think of the Pharisees, who knew the scriptures, but didn’t know God – even though He was in their midst!

    To know God isn’t only to go to church and study the scriptures. To know God meas that we have had an experience with Him. This might be the best way to describe what happened with Nephi. The Lord softened his heart. This was an experience that Nephi had with the Lord.

    When we go to the Lord as Nephi did, we will also have experiences with the Lord. This is what will soften our hearts and give us perspective and clarity.

  4. A Change of Heart Gives Way for Increased Faith – When we have an experience with God, as Nephi did, our softened heart becomes the fertile ground for a seed of faith. Nephi had faith in the words of his father because of his experience with the Spirit. This is a major reason why Nephi did not murmur or rebel.

I know that I can learn from Nephi’s example. I don’t have to get hung up on what I am or am not. The Lord isn’t hung up on that. He doesn’t want “picture perfect” saints in his church. He wants us to come to Him – regardless of our age, stature, race, or place in society.

He will bless our desire with a softening of heart, which will lead to our increased faith. This increased faith will give us the strength we need to do what we have been sent to do – without murmuring or doubting.

Lehi’s Obedience and Why Some People Murmur – 1 Nephi 2:1-15

Context and General Information

  • The Lord spoke to Lehi in a dream and commanded him to flee Jerusalem – his life is in danger.
  • Lehi obeyed.
  • Lehi left all that he owned – his house, his riches, and precious things. The only things that Lehi took were his family and essential provisions like tents.
  • After three days flight, Lehi pitched his tent in the wilderness and gave thanks. He was trying to get out of Jerusalem fast!
  • Lehi pled with his two oldest sons – Laman and Lemuel – because they murmured against their father and his decision to leave Jerusalem to go to the desert wilderness.
  • Lehi dwelt in a tent.
006 Flight from Jerusalem

Flight from Jerusalem

Lehi’s Obedience

The Lord commands:

“For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.”

“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:1-2

Notice the things that the Lord impresses upon Lehi:

  • Lehi was blessed! He had been faithful and he had kept the commandment of the Lord – the personal commandment to prophesy and share what he had seen earlier. He kept this commandment despite the negative consequences that followed…more on that in a moment.
  • Lehi was warned. The people wanted to take away the life of Lehi.
  • The Lord commanded Lehi to take his family and depart in the wilderness.

Notice that – the Lord commanded Lehi.

What does that actually mean? Does this mean that Lehi had no option? What does it mean that Lehi was commanded by God to depart Jerusalem?

When we think of the commandments of God, I think that we typically think of the 10 commandments. Maybe we also even think of the higher law and think of the two commandments – to Love God and to love one another.

So, if someone says, “Keep the commandments,” usually we think of those formal commandments.

However, I think that there is more than just the formal commandments that we are expected to keep. We are also given personal commandments – from God.

Commandment has such a negative connotation sometimes. I’m thinking of a scripture that might give a little bit of positive insight:

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

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

The Lord knows the laws upon which blessings are predicated. The Lord, for example, knows that in order for him to be able to bless Lehi with safety, peace, and a promised land, then Lehi will have to leave Jerusalem. The Lord understands this, so he gives Lehi a personal commandment so that Lehi can then make the choice that will result in a magnificent blessing.

Another scripture that can help us understand the beauty of personal commandments:

” 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

The Lord cannot give us promised blessings if He doesn’t first “say” the commandment that we need to keep.

Lehi was not forced to leave Jerusalem. I don’t think that the Lord would have “cut off” Lehi if Lehi had chosen to say. However, the Lord wouldn’t be able to promise protection either. Lehi had agency. We see how Lehi responds:

“And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.” – 1 Nephi 2:3

Lehi chose to trust the Lord, follow this personal commandment, and live worthy of the blessings that would come to him and his family.

Obedience Brings Blessings…Eventually

Lehi made the decision to leave Jerusalem and it was a pretty dramatic and fast move. We read:

“And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:4

Not only did Lehi leave Jerusalem, but he left in a hurry. He did not postpone this prompting. He acted quickly and obeyed exactly. He made a huge sacrifice – to go into the wilderness without any of his riches or comforts.

The wilderness. That sounds kind of cool. Maybe I should start calling it the “desert wilderness” because this wasn’t just some kind of fun extended camping trip that Lehi and his family took.

***
Earlier, I mentioned that Lehi kept the commandment to preach to the people of Jerusalem, despite the negative consequences that follow.

How does this align with what we read in the Doctrine and Covenants? Lehi keeps the commandments, then is mocked, jeered, and threatened? Lehi kept the Lord’s commandment, isn’t he bound to now bless Lehi?

Of course, blessings do come from keeping the commandments, but they don’t always come immediately.

The “delayed blessing effect” happens again.

Lehi departs into the wilderness. They flee for three days. Then he pitches a tent.

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” – 1 Nephi 2:15

Lehi lived in Jerusalem with riches and comfort. Now he’s living in a tent in a dangerous desert wilderness. If you are familiar with the story, then you know that Lehi will not arrive to the promise land for eight years.

It could be really easy to doubt the Lord and doubt the personal commandments that he gives us when they don’t yield immediate positive results. It could have been easy for Lehi to wonder, “Was I crazy? Did I just displace my entire family because of what I heard in a dream?!” It could be easy for him to say, “Was that the Lord, or was it just me?”

However, Lehi didn’t doubt. He remained optimistic and grateful. He hadn’t inherited any of the promised blessings for keeping the commandments of God. In fact, the only result at this point to keeping God’s commandments had been sacrifices. But he made them faithfully.

How Do We Continue to Obey without Doubting?

In 1 Nephi 2, we meet two of Lehi’s sons – Laman and Lemuel. This is what we read about them:

“Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.” – 1 Nephi 2:11

Laman and Lemuel didn’t understand why they were leaving their gold, silver, and precious things. God had told Lehi to flee Jerusalem so that he and his family could escape death. But Laman and Lemuel felt that they left their land of inheritance “to perish in the wilderness.”

They felt that his father was foolish – that the commandment from God was simply one of the “imaginations of his heart.”

We often criticize Laman and Lemuel, but I don’t think that’s helpful. Instead we can learn from them. Why was Lehi so quick to obey – despite a mountain of negative consequences from his obedience? Why did Laman and Lemuel think he was crazy.

Nephi wrote:

“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

Laman and Lemuel murmured because they didn’t know their God.

Lehi, on the other hand knew God. He knew the voice of the Lord. He knew what the promptings of the Spirit were. He knew how crucial it was for him to obey these personal commandments. He had no doubt in the Lord – despite the difficulties that he faced – because he knew who the Lord was.

We can approach life and personal commandments the same way. We can seek to know our God so that when He commands, we obey without murmuring.