The Love of God – 1 Nephi 11:12-22

You can read 1 Nephi 11:13-22 here.

After hearing his father relate the vision of the tree of life, Nephi had a great desire to really understand what his father’s dream meant. Nephi spent time pondering and praying, and then had his own vision of his father’s dream that helped him to understand it.

Nephi aches to understand what the meaning of the tree of life is. An angel is showing him the meaning of Lehi’s dream, and the first thing that is addressed is the meaning of the tree.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the angel asks what Nephi wants to know. Nephi says he wants to know what the interpretation of the tree of life is. And this is the response:

“And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” – 1 Nephi 11:12-13

So – the angel departs from Nephi’s presence, and then Nephi sees a vision. He sees Jerusalem and other cities. He sees Nazareth. In Nazareth, he sees a virgin.

What does this have to do with the Savior or the tree of life? Well, let’s read on.

“And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” – 1 Nephi 11:14-15

The angel returns again and asks Nephi what he saw. What was it that Nephi saw? Well, he recognized that he saw a virgin who was beautiful and fair. He saw Mary.

I have no idea how Nephi understood that Mary was a virgin. Maybe it was an impression. Maybe it was something based on a cultural understanding that I have no knowledge of. … Okay, so I did a quick internet search, and found this: “How did Nephi know Mary was a virgin? A few verses later, the angel calls her as such, but Mary may have been wearing the veil of a virgin or the double sash, plainly indicating her status to Nephi (See Mary and Elisabeth by S. Kent Brown, 13).” (See here.)

So – he knew that she was a virgin. And he describes this virgin as

  • exceedingly fair and white
  • Most beautiful and fair above all other virgins

By the way – notice what Nephi said about the tree:

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” – 1 Nephi 11:8

This tree sounds a lot like Nephi’s description of Mary. The tree is beautiful – exceeding of all beauty. It was whiter than the driven snow. The tree is what bears the fruit and Mary is the woman who bore the Savior.

I’ve never really noticed this before, and I can’t say that I figured this out on my own. I read an article here that clued me into this connection.

Now, I know that this really is about the Savior. And that is what this dream is about, too. After all Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree.

So – in understanding this vision of his father’s the angel of the Lord shows Nephi Mary. Then he asks Nephi a critical question. We read the question and Nephi’s response:

“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:16-17

Here, the angel is starting to help Nephi understand the meaning of the tree by asking a simple question. The angel asks if Nephi knows the condescension of God.

Nephi admits that he doesn’t, but he prefaces his lack of understanding with something he does know – that God loves his children.

(Side note: I love this. We don’t need to know everything. Nor should we have blind faith. Though Nephi didn’t know everything about God, he knew that God loved him – that God is a trustworthy, loving father).

The angel continues:

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.” – 1 Nephi 11:18-20

The angel explains that the virgin Nephi saw was indeed Mary – the mother of our Savior. Nephi didn’t see her for a bit, and then he sees her again – still a virgin – bearing her child in her arms.

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The Nativity, by Ted Henninger

Bearing fruit.

And now, the angel announces:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!…” – 1 Nephi 11:21

This little baby in the virgin’s arms – is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World. Nephi saw this and understood it. We read:

“…Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:21-22

Nephi saw this virgin and her son and recognized that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies of his father and other prophets. Though John hadn’t yet written his scripture (See John 3:16), Nephi understood that this baby was the embodiment of the Love that God had for our world. Nephi saw and understood all of this when he saw Mary hold the baby in her arms.

I can’t help but think of another experience recorded in scripture:

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” – Luke 2:25-33

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine – how did Nephi understand that the baby that Mary held was the Savior of the world. I mean, later on, Nephi learns more about the Savior’s life, but he “got it” before seeing all of that. It is only after seeing Mary hold the baby Jesus in his arms that he understands that the tree of life that his father saw was the love of God – the most desirable of all things (and, as the angel mentions, the most joyous to the soul). How did he understand this?

I suppose it is the same way that Simeon understood that the newborn babe in the temple was the consolation of Israel, salvation, light, and glory. It is because the Holy Ghost was upon Him.

Simeon saw the tiny infant Jesus and saw the “fruit of the tree” – most desirable and joyous of all things.

And, Nephi, though in a vision 600 years prior to Simeon’s experience, saw the same thing.

We don’t need to have lists of proofs and experiences to know the Savior. (By the way, they are there). We don’t need to have a rational explanation of the greatest joy and love this world has ever known. We simply need the Holy Ghost to bear witness to us that it is true.

Our world as a whole, and our individual lives, have eternal hope, meaning, and joy – all because a fair, young virgin chose to be the Lord’s handmaid and bore the Savior into this world.

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Lehi’s Prophecy of Christ – 1 Nephi 10:4-15

Before really getting into Lehi’s prophecy of Christ, it might be helpful to think about what led up to it:

  • Lehi had been truly converted to the gospel, saw the Lord in vision, and discovered that Jerusalem – because of its wickedness – would be destroyed. As a result of this experience, he began to prophesy in Jerusalem.
  • The people of Jerusalem weren’t particularly receptive to Lehi’s message. They wanted to kill him, so the Lord warned Lehi in a dream to flee Jerusalem.
  • Lehi’s flight was quick. Once a safe distance away, Lehi and his family camped. There, the Lord gave Lehi a command: to have his sons go back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass – the records kept by the elders of the Jews.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam return to Jerusalem to get the plates. Once they return back to Lehi, he begins to study them. It seems to me that he started studying them pretty intently.
  • Lehi receives another command – that his sons will return to Jerusalem another time to get Ishmael and his family, too. They do, and they all are now in the wilderness with Lehi. – This probably took months. Who knows how long. One thing that we can guess is that while Lehi’s sons were gone, Lehi probably spent that time in the wilderness studying the scriptures even more.
  • Lehi has the vision of the tree of life.
  • After telling his family about the vision he had, Lehi prophesies.

I bring up all of this background because, I think that maybe what we read in 1 Nephi 10 is a culmination of studying the scriptures. I’m not sure what Lehi was like before the conversion we read about in 1 Nephi 1. I don’t know what he knew about the Savior or the scattering and gathering of Israel. However, it seems like his knowledge and testimony really grew while in the wilderness.

And then, Nephi shares this prophecy that his father gives of the Savior. Lehi prophesies that the Lord will come in six hundred years. He prophesies that this is the Savior of the World and that we need Him. Lehi continues on also prophesying of the Lord’s baptism, death, and the scattering and gathering of Israel.

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Son of Man, J. Kirk Richards

One – 600 Years from the time Lehi Left Jerusalem

Lehi prophesied:

“”Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:4

We have the hindsight to know that this prophecy came true. The Messiah, the Savior of the world was raised up among the Jews. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem nearly 600 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Two – Prophets Testify of Christ

We read:

“And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:5

This is what makes me think that Lehi had become more acquainted with the scriptures. He had been studying the brass plates and was now familiar with the many prophecies of the Savior given by the prophets.

This reminds me of another scripture spoken by Lehi’s own son:

“…Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.” – Jacob 7:11

The scriptures, the records of the prophets all spoke and prophesied of Christ – His coming, His life, His mission. Lehi is prophesying of the Savior to his children, and they don’t have to take only his word for it – all of the other prophets have prophesied of this same Messiah and their testimonies have been recorded in the scriptures.

Three – The Reason we Need a Savior

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.” – 1 Nephi 10:6

Why prophesy of a Messiah? Why would so many prophets share this exact same message? Because the entire world depends on Him. We need Him. Without the Savior, we have no hope. Without the Savior we remain fallen, lost, and dead.

The Savior is hope. Lehi knew that He would come. We can know that He did come. The prophets tell us about the Savior not only to give us hope, but also so that we can know the way to have this hope take effect in our lives.

Four – The Savior would Be Baptized

It’s interesting to me that one of the key parts of Lehi’s prophecy is that the Lord would be baptized. Lehi said:

“And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:7-10

We will learn more about this later, but it is good to note that it is part of Lehi’s prophecy. The Savior of the World would be baptized. And John the Baptist would witness that he had baptized the Lamb of God – who would take away the sins of the world.

Five – The Jews would Kill the Messiah, and then the House of Israel would Dwindle and Be Scattered

A part of understanding the coming of the Savior is what would happen after He came to the earth.

He would be judged and then killed. Then, after being killed by His own covenant people, He would rise from the dead with healing in His wings. He wasn’t merely brought back to life, He was resurrected. He overcame death.

Unfortunately, as a result of their wickedness and killing of their Savior, the House of Israel would become completely apostate. They would then be scattered throughout the world. Some of the scattering of Israel would even happen before the coming of Christ.

Lehi recognizes that his family is a part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the scattering. He mentions that the House of Israel would be like an Olive tree, and this allegory that was recorded on the plates of brass is quoted at length by Jacob later on.

Six – After the Appointed Time, the Lord would Gather Israel and Bring Back His Covenant

What does the scattering of Israel have to do with the Messiah? Well, I suppose it’s simply a part of His work (on a big scale!). His work is our salvation and exaltation, and the scattering and gathering of Israel is a crucial part of His work – bringing the hope of the Gospel to all people.

The Lord, after the great apostasy would (and did!) bring His gospel to the “Gentiles.” After they had received the gospel, then they would take it back to the other nations of the earth and gather scattered Israel.

As a part of this process, the Gentiles would also covenant with God – thereby creating a way for all of God’s children to be blessed by the Savior: His Atonement and His Covenant.

***

These prophecies are beautiful and exciting. They are the basics of the gospel. The Savior loves us all.

The effects of the fall – we can think of them like gravity – they have a hold on us whether or not we believe or know what it is. You don’t need to know how to explain gravity, you don’t even need to believe in gravity for it to still have effect in your life! You can jump up, and you’ll still come down. You can take a step off the edge of the Grand Canyon, and still…yikes.

The fall is the same way. We are all effected by it. And if we want to overcome the effects of the fall, we can’t just wish it away. We need the Savior. He answers the demands of the fall while extending us mercy and hope.

And His scope is so much more than the group of people anciently known as Israel. His scope is that every single one of us can be saved by His miraculous power and Atonement.

So – he has revealed Himself and His work to the prophets. He came to earth. He fulfilled all righteousness. He chose and covenanted with a group of people. He even allowed them to rebel. And then, He brought his covenant to another group of people, promising that it would eventually go to all – even to those who initially had the covenant and then rebelled against it.

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon, and how it helps us to understand the work of the Savior. Even though talking about this big huge plan doesn’t feel particularly personal, it does have a personal impact in our lives. And in understanding it, we can better understand our Savior and our covenants with Him.

Sariah’s Testimony of the Lord – 1 Nephi 5:8

I love the scriptures, and if you don’t already know this, I’m a woman. I love and cherish the examples and testimonies of women that we have in the scriptures. In 1 Nephi, we read the testimony given by Sariah:

“And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

Not only is it cool to read Sariah’s testimony, we can actually learn a bit about how the Lord works in our lives.

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The Lord Commands, Protects, Delivers, and Empowers

The Lord Commands His People

The first thing that Sariah mentions is that she knows of a surety that the Lord had commanded her husband and family to flee into the wilderness. We learn that the Lord gives his children commandments.

Of course, there are the generic commandments that we can think of (that are of vital importance, by the way) – the ten commandments, the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors.

But if we want to develop a real, living, and vital relationship with our God, then we will find that He gives us commandments, and we need to keep them.

Follow my train of thought for a moment. I hope it makes sense. No idea, so if it is confusing, I apologize in advance.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read:

“4 And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:4

This verse puzzled me in the past, until I started to understand that commandments aren’t just a set of arbitrary rules. Here, we read that the saints would be crowned with blessings from above and with commandments not a few.

It might give you a bit of insight to my personality, but when I read that, I have an inclination to think that a blessing from above would be no more commandments! Not commandments – not a few!

Of course, if we begin to understand that God isn’t just magic, but that He lives a set of universal principles and laws, then we begin to understand that the commandments are based on those principles and laws. Those commandments are the keys to our happiness.

For example, sometimes it seems like it would be liberating to eat cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But our bodies need nutrients in order to keep our hormones, muscles, and brain functioning properly. If we thought ultimate liberty was not to eat veggies, get sleep, and exercise, and instead just to eat cookies and vegetate all day, we wouldn’t be happy. We would put unneeded stress on our bodies systems and hormones. Eventually we might succumb to cancer, a heart attack, or diabetes.

The commandments are the keys that we need in order for us to live a happy life. If the Lord just pretended like there were no universal principles or laws, and if he “allowed” for us to do “whatever we wanted,” he would be a horrible father and a liar. We would eventually succumb to spiritual (and physical!) problems that would eventually kill our soul – both body and spirit.

When we understand that the commandments are loving hints on how to have a better life, then we do rejoice at “commandments not a few.” They may not always be easy to do (cookies for breakfast lunch and dinner sounds great sometimes!), but they will give us a result that more than outweighs the sacrifice.

***

I don’t think that Sariah had a hard time with keeping God’s commandments, in general. It’s easy for most of us to want to keep the commandments. However, where we might have a bit more trouble is learning how to discern and then keep the personal commandments we have been given. Even President Monson struggled with this when he finally learned never to postpone a prompting. (See here.)

When Sariah bore her testimony here, she bore testimony that she knew the Lord commanded them to leave Jerusalem. Though they were only beginning their journey (and she had already been quite tested!) this testimony – that the Lord indeed commanded them to flee Jerusalem would help to sustain her through further adversities.

We can be comforted to know that the Lord commands us. We can be comforted to know that Christ’s commandments aren’t given to puff up his pride or because He is on some kind of power trip. We can be assured that He gives us personal promptings and commandments because He loves us.

The Lord Protects Us

In Sariah’s testimony, she stated, “I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons…”

This is the tender testimony of a mother! Though I haven’t had Sariah’s exact experience, I can relate. Often, we mothers have to let our children go to and experience things that we would rather protect them from.

But the best protection we can give them is to trust in the Lord. He loves them most of all.

This extends to each of us, too. We are His children, and He will protect us from our enemy.

Isn’t this such a comforting testimony?

The Lord Delivers

Not only did the Lord protect her sons, but he actually delivered them out of the hands of Laban. They could have been killed. They were being chased down. But the Lord enabled them to escape. This was a tender mercy – both to Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam – and ALSO for Lehi and Sariah.

I imagine that every day while they were gone, she worried. She knew that their flight out of Jerusalem was because people were seeking to kill Lehi. I can only imagine how worried she would have been.

And then, she finds that they had been in danger, that they had been pursued by a small army, but that the Lord delivered them miraculously. Yes! A testimony-building experience, for sure!!!

Once again, we can apply her testimony to our own lives. The Lord will deliver us. He will not only protect us, but deliver us. He will deliver us from the hands of our enemies – especially that one enemy – Satan. Satan may try to pursue us with His armies, but the Lord will deliver us. There may be times when Satan is allowed to scare us, and chase us down, but if we put our trust in the Lord, then Satan will not be able to overcome us.

The Lord delivers.

The Lord Will Empower Us

Sariah put it this way:

“I also know of a surety that the Lord hath … given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

Currently, I’m just intrigued by and attracted to the idea that our Savior not only Atoned for our sins and protects us, but that He also empowers and enables us.

Think of it this way. I’m a mother. It’s one thing for me to pick up my child and carry him all around. That’s a sacrifice. It is willingness and love. But it’s another thing completely for me to teach my child to walk. That is sacrifice and trust and the gift of liberty.

The Lord does this with us, too. Yes, He can protect us. Yes, He can deliver us. Think of it this way – the Lord was capable of getting those plates. I mean, the Liahona – how did Lehi get it? It was just there, on his doorstep. The Lord could have manifest His power and providence by letting Lehi wake up one day and find a stack of brass plates on the front-step of his tent.

But instead, the Lord gave Lehi and his sons a commandment and an opportunity. Lehi’s sons would go back and get the plates. Lehi would have to put his trust in the Lord and in his sons – he was to stay in the wilderness.

The Lord didn’t expect Nephi and his brothers to accomplish this alone. Simultaneously, he wouldn’t give them play-by-play instructions on how to do it, either. As we read:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” – Doctrine and Covenants 58:26

Empowerment comes from a divine combination of us using our own creativity and genius, while staying humble and open for direction from the Lord. We feel the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ when we choose to be co-creators with him.

It’s hard to do! It’s hard to make choices! Nephi and his brothers put a lot of thought and effort into the ideas that they had for obtaining the plates. In their experience, the Lord eventually delivered Laban in a pretty direct way, but Nephi and his brothers still had to make real-time decisions and have real-time ideas.

It was a combined effort. If Nephi didn’t make the decision to walk into Jerusalem that night, they wouldn’t have had the plates.

The Lord gives us power to do what He has commanded us. It’s guaranteed success!  Of course, this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. This doesn’t even mean that we won’t experience some collateral damage. But we will be able to do what the Lord has required of us, and we can rest assured that the adversities we experience will be consecrated for our gain.

***

5 Sariah

I love the Book of Mormon. And I love the bold testimony of a strong woman. I know that we see her complain earlier in the chapter. And some people may criticize her for this, but I really can’t imagine being Sariah. She showed so much faith every step of the way. She didn’t have a dream at night to flee Jerusalem; she just trusted her husband.

She chose to find comfort in his words as she waited for her sons to come home. And when her sons came back to the tent of Lehi with the plates of brass in had, she received a powerful witness. I’m so grateful that Nephi included her words in the record. They teach us about the Savior and witness of His love, protection, and power.

The Savior Converses with His Children – 1 Nephi 1:6, 9-11

Right as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ opens, we learn something pretty amazing about the Lord. He communicates with His children.

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Portrait of Christ, Carl Bloch

First we read of Lehi’s experience:

“And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.” – 1 Nephi 1:6

Other than the pillar of fire that appeared before Lehi, I don’t know what Lehi saw and heard. But I know that it had a major impact on him. In some ways, it seems like this was probably an uncomfortable experience. Lehi quaked and trembled much.

My guess is that Lehi was having an experience that was purifying. It probably wasn’t all that comfortable. But I think that it is helpful for us to know so that we can better understand our interactions with the Lord. Yes, the Lord will speak to us. Sometimes, however, what He communicates with us may not be all that comfortable. In order for us to really get closer to the Lord, we often have to be purified. But if we are like Lehi, then we will use this opportunity to wrestle with our own personal “natural man” or “woman.” We will go home and ponder, just as Lehi did. And then we will have another experience with the Lord:

” And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.” – 1 Nephi 1:8-11

The Lord will Manifest Himself to Us, if We Are Willing

Because Lehi was willing to first be purified by the Lord, He was then able to have this amazing manifestation.

I don’t think that the Savior will manifest Himself to all of us in the exact same way. Personally, I believe that the Savior manifests Himself to each of us in a way that 1) we understand and 2) according to the work and purposes of our lives.

But we can learn so much about the Savior from Lehi’s experience.

  1. The Lord will Communicate with Us. – The Lord didn’t ignore Lehi’s prayers. He answered them – first in a pillar of fire and a strong message while Lehi was out near a rock. Second – the Lord answered Lehi’s prayers when Lehi came home and continued pondering the first experience. This time the Lord communicated with Lehi through a divine vision.
  2. Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father – while comprising one Godly Unit (along with the Holy Ghost) – are distinct beings. – Together, they work together to make one God – with one purpose. Lehi saw God sitting upon his throne – surrounded by numberless concourses of angels. Then, Lehi sees One descending out of the midst of Heaven. This indicates two different beings. In this circumstance, “One,” refers to the Savior, Jesus Christ – who is the mediator between us and the Father.

    Notice how it isn’t Heavenly Father who comes down to Lehi. Christ is our intercessor between us and the Father. Heavenly Father doesn’t often deal with us directly, but uses His Son to do the work. Additionally, we don’t approach Heavenly Father completely independently. Even in prayer, we must say it in Christ’s name. He is the Mediator, and we see this in Lehi’s experience.

  3. The Savior is full of light – Lehi notices that the “One” who descends from the midst of heaven was shining. His luster was “above that of the sun at noon-day.”
  4. The Savior will Reveal His Mysteries to Us The Savior, descended out of heaven, with 12 following Him. Then He handed Lehi a book. The Lord will reveal His mysteries to us if we seek Him diligently and allow Him to purify us.Later in the chapter, we learn that part of what Lehi learned was that Jerusalem – if it continued in its wicked trajectory – would be destroyed. The Lord will revel His mysteries, which often include warnings. We must just make ourselves available to hear what our the Lord, through His Spirit, has to say to us.

The Lord Expresses His Love and Happiness with Us and Our Choices

One thing that I think the Lord really wants us to know is that he loves us.

Notice what the Lord says to Lehi and then later what He says to Nephi:

“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.” – 1 Nephi 2:1

And then to Nephi:

“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” – 1 Nephi 2:19

The Lord notices what we are doing. He cares about us. And in each instance – both with Lehi and Nephi before stating anything else to them, He expressed His blessings on them. He expressed a sort of pleasure or pride in what they are doing. Maybe that isn’t the right way to say it. I’m not sure…He notices the work they are doing, the sacrifices they are making, the commandments they are keeping, the faith they are expressing.

We can rest assured that the Lord knows us, too. That He recognizes our efforts no matter how big or small they are. Lehi was the prophet. Nephi was exceedingly young – but the Lord answered both of their prayers.

He loves us.

Oh…there is so much more that we can learn in these first three chapters about our Lord and Savior. And if you have read any of my other blog posts, then you know I can study them and be long winded. But I must wrap up for now. Today, we can simply know that God loves us. He listens to us. He communicates with us. He will manifest Himself to us. He will guide us. He will protect us.

Truly, the Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ. Even in these three first chapters, we grow in closeness to our Savior as we see how He has interacted with his children in ancient times.

It Was Not After the Manner of Men – 1 Nephi 18:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 18:1-4 here.

Context and General Information

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

It Was Not After the Manner of Men

In the past, I haven’t usually cared much about Nephi’s boat – how was it built? How did it get across the ocean? etc. I have always figured that if we needed to understand certain specificities, then Nephi would have included that information.

However, there is some information that he included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he gets the assignment to build a boat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We met. We got engaged. We got married. And now we’ve been married for 11 years, he adopted my two daughters and then we’ve had two more children.

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

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

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

And now, 11 years later, I can say the same thing even more emphatically. I have seen how wise the Lord was in letting us meet and bringing us together. I can see how wise the Lord was in letting us meet in such an unconventional way. It has been a strength and blessing for our marriage and lives.

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

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

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

Go To The Mount Oft and Pray

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

Well, Nephi gives the answer in his example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read 1 Nephi 17:48-55 here.

Context and General Information

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

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Convinced by the Power of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” – 1 Nephi 17:51

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

It worked!

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

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

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

He can. And He will.

We Might Have Been Happy – 1 Nephi 17:21-22

You can read 1 Nephi 17:21-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel are murmuring against Nephi.
  • They complain about their journey in the wilderness – that they suffered. They complain that instead of suffering in the wilderness, they could have been in Jerusalem and enjoying their possessions. They claim that “they might have been happy.”
  • They say that they know that the people of Jerusalem had been righteous. That they kept the statutes of the Lord.
  • Laman and Lemuel say that Lehi wrongly judged the people of Jerusalem and then led his family away because they would listen to him.

We Might Have Been Happy

Yesterday we studied a little bit about Laman and Lemuel and their response to discovering that Nephi was going to build a boat. You can read it here. They had a problem for every good solution. They had no solutions whatsoever, and then a list of ill-contrived complaints.

Complaint One – Suffering in the Wilderness for Years

Okay. So this legitimately happened. Even Nephi expressed:

“And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:1

Of course, Nephi’s response to the recognition of such trial is very different than Laman’s and Lemuel’s. Instead of complaining about these trials, Nephi is quick to notice the blessings that they experienced that helped them to bear these trials better. Nephi, even in the midst of trial, could find the tender mercies of the Lord. He could find reasons to be happy and rejoice.

And that begs the question – would Laman and Lemuel have been happy if they wouldn’t have suffered any afflictions? The answer is No.

Happiness does not mean that we live in a vacuum – free from any kind of trials or afflictions. This is such a basic thing to understand, and we must understand it, otherwise we will make the same mistake as Laman and Lemuel did. We will constantly think that the grass is greener over there…that if only our conditions were perfect, then we’d be happy.

This really could be the topic for an entire book, but what is coming to mind right now, is that we need to recognize there is a connection between sacrifice and joy. If you think of the most joyful experiences you have had, I bet that there was a measure of sacrifice that you endured to get there.

For example, I have joy in my children. And trust me – I’ve sacrificed for them. Even before they were born, I was sacrificing. Every good parent that has joy in their children has made a sacrifice.

I had joy when I crossed the finish line of a marathon. This required hours and miles of sacrifice.

I had joy when finishing a hike and viewing a magnificent vista. But the view didn’t come easy. It was work to get here!

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You can’t just drive here. You have to get out of your car and hike. But the walk is worth the crisp air, the pine scent, the blue skies, and the clear view.

Now, they hadn’t come to their promised land yet, so even though Nephi could see the tender mercies of the Lord, doesn’t mean that he had experienced the full measure of happiness that would make the sacrifices feel like nothing at all. He still felt the weight of the sacrifices. But he clung to hope – that the Lord would deliver them from their afflictions and trials, and that they would soon experience the joy of being at the promised land. They would experience the joy of knowing that they had crossed the wilderness and the many waters; they endured; and they were able to live freely and blessed by the Lord.

The happiness was yet to come. But the happiness would only come as they sacrificed and endured their trials well – not because they never faced a trial in the first place.

Complaint Two – We Might Have Enjoyed Our Possessions

This is an interesting one.

I suppose it is connected to the first complaint – being in the wilderness. They had to leave all of their comforts and possessions to go into the wilderness.

Not only that, but maybe this is also in reference to what they lost back in chapter 3 – when they tried to “buy” the plates of brass from Laban, and instead he stole all of their precious things and tried to kill them, to boot.

In any case, Laman and Lemuel complained because they haven’t been able to enjoy their possessions. And, as I said before, it’s kind of interesting.

There is something enjoyable about possessions. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. We have gotten rid of 95% of what we own for the moves we have made in the last few years. Yes, there are times when I miss some of my stuff.

But, for the most part, I have learned how little we really need. And while possessions can be enjoyed, and they can make life easier, I know that it isn’t our possessions that make us happy.

Complaint Three – We Might Have Enjoyed the Land of Our Inheritance

I can also see how this would be difficult. They left their land – their home, their friends, the conveniences, the culture – to wander in the wilderness. It would be hard.

By the way – even though Nephi never complains against God, he also never calls these experiences easy. They are afflictions. They are trials. But Nephi accepts these trials with the faith that 1) the Lord will strengthen him. 2) They will soon make it to the promised land. 3) The Promised land will be even better.

So – yeah – the trials are hard. It was hard for them to move away.

However, their assumption that they could have “enjoyed the land of their inheritance,” might be off. Their father would have been killed. Lehi fled for his life. I don’t think that Lehi would have been around for the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. He would have died at the hands of the Jews before that time came.

And who knows how this would have effected Laman and Lemuel. They would have been the son of a condemned prophet. I don’t think that they would have done much “enjoying” of their land of inheritance. I don’t think that they have a good idea of the reality of their situation back in Jerusalem.

Complaint Four – We Might Have Been Happy

Sounds like a nice argument. But just because Laman and Lemuel think and say this, doesn’t make it true.

Happy?! In 586 BC, about 14 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians. This destruction was recorded and described by the prophet Jeremiah in a book called Lamentations (doesn’t sound all that happy to me).

The condition of Jerusalem was deplorable when the Babylonian takeover happened. Many were killed. Others were forced into slavery. The people were distressed, forsaken, and utterly powerless. Children and babies wasted away – with hunger – in the streets of Jerusalem.

This is not the land of inheritance that Laman and Lemuel had in mind, but it was the reality.

I highly doubt that Laman and Lemuel would have liked this scenario. I doubt that they would have then repeated the refrain, “We might have been happy.” Because they wouldn’t have been happy.

***

The problem with murmuring and complaining, as Laman and Lemuel did, is that it will blind us to the truth.

And one more thing – do you really think, with the kind of attitude that Laman and Lemuel had, they would have ever been happy?

I don’t think it’s possible. I think that no matter what – even if the conditions of their lives were “perfect,” they would have found something to complain about. They would have created another fantasy-filled alternatives and then complained about perceived “wrongs.”

We need to learn from Laman’s and Lemuel’s mistakes. We need to remember the root of their murmuring:

“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

We need to learn from them and then strive to be close to the Lord and understand His dealings. It is through understanding His dealings and accepting some of the sacrifices that come with His dealings that will lead us to true happiness and joy.

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.

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.