The “Isaiah Chapters” in 2 Nephi Are All About Christ – 2 Nephi 11

Several chapters in the book of 2 Nephi are actually direct quotes from the Book of Isaiah. These chapters have the reputation of being difficult to understand. In 2 Nephi 11, we get some insight on why Nephi included the following chapters in his record. Understanding why he included them will help us to understand them – we will know what to look for!

Why Nephi Includes Isaiah’s Prophecies – The Principle of Multiple Witnesses

In 2 Nephi, we read:

“And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.

3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” – 2 Nephi 11:2-3

Why is Nephi including the words of Isaiah? Bottom line – because Isaiah is another witness of Jesus Christ. And, as Nephi brings up – the Lord will establish his word by the words of three. So, we have Jacob’s witness of Christ, Nephi’s witness of Christ, and now Isaiah’s witness of Christ.

If we keep this in mind – that the words of Isaiah which were included by Nephi will witness of Christ – then it will help us as we read the following chapters. Keep that in mind – How does this witness of Christ?! It’s like a puzzle. If you are handed 500 puzzle pieces and the person giving them to you says, “complete this puzzle,” but you have no guide, no picture, no clue as to what it will make – then the puzzle is pretty hard.

Isaiah’s words can be puzzling, but we have a guide. We have a picture that we can look at to help us understand how to put the puzzle together.

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It’s all about the Savior.

Putting the Puzzle Together – Hint One – The Coming of Christ

Nephi writes:

“Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.” – 2 Nephi 11:4

The first reason that Nephi spent so much time quoting Isaiah is because he loves to prove to the truth of the coming of Christ. Isaiah’s writings are filled with prophecies concerning the Lord’s coming.

In fact, as Nephi explains, the entire law of Moses was given to prepare the people for the coming of the Savior. Everything that God has given, since the beginning of the world, typify of Christ.

Now, Nephi wrote this chapter somewhere between 559-545 BC. Isaiah wrote his prophecies somewhere between 739 and 681 BC. The point is – these prophecies were written centuries before Christ came. We have hindsight. We know that the Savior came as prophesied. And we know that He will come again.

So – when we read the prophecies of Isaiah we can look for the prophecies that indicate His coming(s). We can also keep in mind that this is what Nephi was doing when he chose the writings that he included. (Nephi didn’t copy down the whole book of Isaiah, he only picked a handful of chapters, so I think that it is okay to assume he picked these chapters for a reason).

Oh – one more thing, anything that is included in these chapters that references the Law of Moses – we can remember is also typifying of Christ.

Hint Two – The Covenants of the Lord

Nephi explains his next reason for including these chapters:

“And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers;…”  – 2 Nephi 11:5

Nephi loves the covenants of the Lord. Nephi is a covenant person and a covenant keeper. He understands the purpose of the covenants that we make with the Lord – that they are essential for our deliverance from death and hell. He also understands that God didn’t need to covenant with us; He doesn’t need us, we need Him.

Nephi loves these covenants so much, we can guess that he loves the scriptures that taught him about these covenants – which is another thing we can look for in the “Isaiah chapters.”

Hint Three – His Grace, Justice and Power, and Mercy

Now, we read of another thing that Nephi delights in, and it can help us with understanding the “Isaiah chapters.”

“…yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.” –  2 Nephi 11:5

It is important not to disconnect the covenants from the One who gave us the covenant. Think of them – Jesus Christ and the Covenants we make with Him – together in the same breath. Jesus Christ is a major part of these covenants. In fact, they wouldn’t even be available to us without Him. The very fact that He has given us covenants we can make with Him tell us so much about His love and grace that He has for us.

By understanding our covenants, we will better understand our Savior. As we better understand our Savior, we will better understand our covenants. It’s this cycle that reinforces itself – for good. An upward spiral.

In the chapters of Isaiah, if we will look, then we will learn about the covenants that the Lord made to our fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we will learn the difference these covenants make in our lives.

Hint Four – Save Christ Should Come, All Men Must Perish

And women, too. Nephi writes:

“And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.

7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.” – 2 Nephi 11:6-7

Finally, Nephi is including the words of Isaiah so that we will understand the importance of 1) Christ’s coming, 2) the Covenants of the Lord = without Him and without His covenants, all men and women must perish!

Whether we believe it or not, Christ is central to our lives, the plan of salvation, and our very existence. And if we will choose to learn more about the Savior and His covenants, then we will be able to understand that our lives depend on Him.

These are three major things that we can learn as we read the Isaiah chapters. If we keep an open mind, and remember these three hints, we will be able to put together the “Isaiah Chapters” puzzle. We will be able to “lift up [our] hearts and rejoice.”

 

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An Invitation – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

First of all, 2 Nephi 9 is another absolutely amazing chapter in The Book of Mormon. Jacob explains the Atonement in this chapter.

We know that Jacob had a personal witness of the Savior.

Additionally, we know that Jacob had a great teacher – Lehi. 2 Nephi 2 is the chapter where Lehi teaches Jacob one final time before his death. Lehi taught about the need for opposition, the fall, and the benefits and blessings of the fall. Lehi taught about agency. He lays the groundwork for really understanding the need for an Atonement.

We can guess that chapter 9 is happening quite some time later – Lehi passed away, Laman and Lemuel had threatened Nephi, Nephi and his people fled from Laman and Lemuel, Nephi and his people built their own civilization. So, I’m sure some time has passed. Chapter 9 of 2 Nephi says that it happened anywhere between 559-545 BC: a span of about 14 years. Jacob has probably learned a lot since the time that his father taught him.

So – this chapter is awesome, and Jacob’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing. We are so blessed to have his teachings. Read all of 2 Nephi 9.

Today, I want to focus in on an invitation that Jacob gave:

“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

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Come Every One that Thirsteth

Who thirsts? Everyone! There is not a soul who can survive this world without water. There is true on both a physical and spiritual level.

So Jacob’s invitation is to everyone – all of us. None of us are turned away.

Come to the Waters

Jacob has identified his audience: all that thirst. By the way, Jacob is saying this by way of commandment. It isn’t merely Jacob’s invitation. It is the Lord’s invitation. So- we will refer to it as the Lord’s invitation from this point on.

What does the Lord offer to those that thirst (all of us): water.

I often tell myself and say to others: Our Lord is not Lucy. You know Lucy, from Charlie Brown. She sets Charlie Brown up – with the football. He runs to kick it, then she snatches it away, and he ends up flat on his back.

The Lord is not like that.

To those that thirst, He offers:

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into ceverlasting life.” – John 4:14

***

I have to admit that I take this for granted. I live in the U.S. I’ve lived a privileged life. I’ve been thirsty, sure. But water has never been hard to come by for me. I haven’t had to dig a well. I haven’t had to search for a spring or brook. If I’m thirsty, I can usually just get up and go right to the tap where clean water is ready for consumption. If I go for a hike, I have the ability to fill up a water bottle, bladder, or canteen with fresh water. I can’t imagine being in a situation where water simply is not available to me.

That being said, I’ve been thirsty before (obviously), and there is nothing quite like a refreshing glass of water when you really thirst.

Christ offers this to us. It is such a comfort and blessing. And He offers it to us consistently – like a tap that always has good, cool, clean water.

He that Hath no Money, Come Buy and Eat

The Lord not only offers us water, but he also says:

“…yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” –

The Lord offers us not only necessities, but also the abundances of wine and milk – without money or price. We simply have to come.

As I write this, I realize the water, the milk, and the wine – they aren’t free. He paid for them.

Do Not Spend Money for That Which is No Worth, Nor Labor for that Which Cannot Satisfy

Always good advice. And I can’t say that I always heed it. Why are we so much like raccoons? Could Jacob even imagine what these modern days would be like – how rich we would be, yet how empty so many of us feel because we are spending money on that which is of no worth???

I don’t want to write too much on this subject because I do spend money on what some might say is not of worth. I don’t want to pontificate on this subject because I don’t think that the Lord is telling us to be minimalists.

I really think that He is just saying that we will find happiness from Him, not from the things that we buy or other things that we chase after – thinking that they are important – in this life.

(Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t suggest we throw out the baby with the bathwater. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with “stuff.” It’s just that we should remember the role that “stuff” plays in our lives. Stuff is just stuff. We do need some stuff. And some stuff can make life a little nicer and more comfortable.  We simply need to remember it’s role and importance in our lives and not get confused – thinking that “stuff” is what will make us happy.)

Come Unto the Holy One of Israel

Come unto Christ! This is what we should focus on! Even as we do other things in life, we still need the Savior to be at the center of what we do. The Savior is what will bring us peace, joy, and life. He is the Living Water. He is the Bread of Life.

Feast Upon that Which Perisheth Not

Christ is everlasting. His gospel is everlasting. Feasting on His word will bring us the same kind of everlasting life and joy.

The Savior taught:

“6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 12:6 (See also Matthew 5:6)

When we feast on what He has to offer, we will experience satisfaction.

Let Your Soul Delight in Fatness

I really hope that you have made it this far in this blog post, because this is my favorite!

LET YOUR SOUL DELIGHT IN FATNESS!!!!!

How often do we get to hear something like this? Eat, eat, eat! Feasting too much on Christ and His good word? Impossible! Our spiritual fitness=fatness! Delight in it! Delight in the Savior, eat, drink and find joy in what He offers to us.

What an invitation.

This is a party I want to go to! There won’t be judgment. He’s not telling us to dress in black tie. We won’t be judging others – on their cars or clothing because as a part of the invitation, we have been advised not to spend money or labor on worthless things. Some people may show up to the party in a Range Rover, others may show up on foot. No big deal. We can trust that each person did what they needed to do, personally, to get there.

We don’t need to worry about what we are wearing. If we are wearing an expensive brand or clothes or something we got at Wal-Mart, it doesn’t matter. We just need to show up!

We just need to come. The Savior paid the price for each of us to come. He paid our entry fees. He had all of our names listed on the invite list. And now He invites us to come unto Him and participate fully, freely, and frequently. He wants us to be happy.

We can trust Him. He is not Lucy. If we will come unto Christ – through covenanting with Him and then keeping those covenants, then we will be able to let our souls delight in fatness.

The Lord Will Fulfill His Covenants – 2 Nephi 6:12

A concept about the Savior is standing out to me today. I will list the scriptures and then try to figure out what they really mean.

“…for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children;…” – 2 Nephi 6:12

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“But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee—” – 2 Nephi 6:17

Okay, so the themes that are standing out to me right now are:

  • The Lord will fulfill the Covenants He has made unto His children.
  • The Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
  • The Lord will contend with them that contendeth with thee.

Interestingly enough, when Jacob gave this speech, his people had recently escaped from the Lamanites who wanted to kill Nephi and those who supported Nephi.

After traveling for a while, Nephi and his people settled in a new place (the land of Nephi). They started building temples, making swords to protect themselves, and building up their city. In 2 Nephi 5, we read:

“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.” – 2 Nephi 5:27

Jacob was speaking to the people after they had experienced these themes of the Lord.

The covenants that the Lord made with their fathers (Lehi and Nephi) had been fulfilled. They were living in the promised land, after a manner of happiness. Additionally, they were prospered, which was also the fulfillment of a promise that the Lord made directly with Lehi.

The Mighty God did deliver his covenant people. They had been delivered from Jerusalem, from Laban, from the afflictions of the wilderness, from the raging sea, and from the Lamanites. They knew, intimately and experientially, that the Lord was mighty and would deliver His people.

Finally, Jacob taught that the Lord would “contend with them that contendeth with thee.” I’m not sure how much of that they had seen (in comparison to the first two points/experiences). I mean, they didn’t contend with the Lamanites. They fled, and the Lord delivered them. However, because they knew the validity of the first two statements about the Lord, I’m sure they were comforted by this. They knew that there were threats to their peace. They knew that they could trust the Lord.

I guess that’s what all of this is about today. We can trust the Lord.

In fact, I think that is one of the main themes of both 1 and 2 Nephi. We can trust the Lord. Do we really believe that???

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Do We Really Believe the Savior?

Now, it’s kind of easy to think that these scriptures that we read are more general. That this is about the Lord’s covenant people – Israel – as a whole. That the Lord will remember this covenant on a giant-macro-level. And it is true. These revelations are about the Savior’s work on a large scale level.

But it doesn’t end there.

Christ’s work is infinite and eternal. Remember, infinite means really big – expanding… space can expand forever.

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Outer Space

But infinite also means really small…and we can also get infinitely smaller…

(By the way, that’s not as small as it gets. Those are pollen particles. You can find a photo of a single atom here. And remember – the atom isn’t even the smallest particle you can find!!!)

Gosh, I’m going on a tangent. The point I’m trying to make is that usually, when I think of “infinite” I think bigger and bigger and bigger. I think more and more and more. I think of the Lord’s infinite ability, and I think that it means all of the House of Israel, or all of the people of the world. And it does.

But it ALSO means smaller and smaller and smaller – down to single units. Down to single creations. Down to you and down to me. I mean the Savior Himself proclaimed:

” Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” – Matthew 10:29-30

So – when we look at these points:

  • The Lord will fulfill the Covenants He has made unto His children.
  • The Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
  • The Lord will contend with them that contendeth with thee.

Not only are they applicable to the House of Israel at large, but they are applicable to you and me. We can liken these scriptures unto ourselves because they do apply to each of us.

I feel so comforted when I can remember that the Lord will fulfill the covenants that He has made with each of us. On a personal level, those covenants have been proclaimed to us in personal experiences – perhaps through promptings, through Priesthood blessings, or in our Patriarchal blessing. But we can rest assured that the Lord will fulfill His covenants if we will keep up our end of the covenant, too!

I feel comforted to know that we will be delivered by a Mighty God. I will be delivered in the end – from death and hell, and that is incredibly comforting to know. However, I can also be delivered in the meantime – as in right now – from the suffering and challenges and afflictions that I face now. The Lord delivers. I have experienced this in my life. Yes, we all go through affliction, suffering, and trial. But if we will put our hope and trust in the Lord, He will deliver us.

Finally, I feel so comforted to know that the Lord will help me to fight my battles. This comes in so many ways, but they are always tailored to each of us personally, if we will let Him into our lives.

For example, as I write right now, I realize that one way the Lord helps us to “fight our battles” is through the prophet. Recently, President Nelson gave the women of the church a set of challenges to complete. One of those challenges was a social media/negative media fast. I made a choice to do as he instructed, even though I was basically addicted to Instagram…

As I obeyed this simple commandment, I found more peace in my life. Some of my “enemies” of anxiety and being overwhelmed were mitigated during that period of time. It was fairly obvious to me that often the things I must contend with happen in between my ears, and that social media was a weakness for me.

Through listening to the Prophet, I started to identify how I could overcome some of the things I’ve been contending with for years (ever since I started up on social media! no coincidence!). I have adjusted my Social media practices, and I feel like I’m finally overcoming and winning this battle in my brain!

What a comfort to know that the Lord will contend with those that contend with us. He does this in various ways, but we can rest assured that He will.

Anyway – long tangent, but I know that the Lord helps us individually. I know that these things that Jacob teaches us about Our Savior are not only applicable on a big scale, but on an individual scale. I know that the Lord fulfills His covenants, delivers His people, and will fight our battles. I’m so grateful to believe in a God who is loving, powerful, and mindful of each and every one of us.

Nephi Praises the Lord – 2 Nephi 4:20-25

In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi praises the Lord. We can learn a lot about the Savior from the praises that he gives.

We read:

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” – 2 Nephi 4:20-25

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Jesus Christ in White Robes, by Grant Romney Clawson

What we Learn about the Savior from Nephi’s Psalm

  • Christ supports us.
  • The Savior will lead us through the wilderness of our affliction.
  • Christ will preserves us.
  • The Savior will fill us with His love.
  • The Savior will confound our enemies.
  • Jesus listens to our prayers.
  • The Lord will give us knowledge and reveal to us.
  • The Lord will send angels to minister to us.
  • The Savior will bless us with His Spirit.

***

I don’t have much time to write right now, which is kind of a shame because this is one of my favorite chapters in the scriptures. Read all of 2 Nephi 4 it is really beautiful.

There is one other idea that I find striking. As you read in the above passage, Nephi isn’t just listing qualities of the Savior, but he is listing qualities of the Savior that he has experienced.

2 Nephi 4 begins with the death of Lehi. After Lehi dies, Nephi is the prophet and leader of the people, and he is constrained by the Spirit to speak to Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael. Of course, they don’t like the message that Nephi has to share. They aren’t interested in the admonitions of the Lord or in keeping His commandments. They become angry with Nephi, and Nephi loses his patience with them, too.

The loss of patience Nephi experiences with his brothers, though most likely justifiable, still drove the Spirit away, and for this reason, Nephi laments.

This chapter is one of the most intimate chapters we have from Nephi. In a way, we see how he is able to go from being in a frustrated, angry, and afflicted state to a renewed vigor and commitment to put his trust in the Lord.

He does this by remembering and praising the Savior.

It’s really interesting. It doesn’t seem like the most intuitive thing to do – to go to the Lord and praise Him in the moment of our affliction, suffering, and loss of peace. I mean, think about Nephi – the whole reason his brothers were so angry with him is because of what he said to them. And Nephi didn’t just go up to his brothers and tell them of the “admonition of the Lord” because he is a know it all.

Nephi was the prophet and patriarch of the family. He had been commanded by the Lord to speak to his brothers. We know Nephi was obedient. He was no Jonah – refusing to teach people that he believed wouldn’t receive his message. Nephi obeyed.

It would be easy to see why Nephi would then be angry with his brothers. They most likely threatened his life (in fact, in the next chapter, Nephi will be prompted to take his people and leave Laman and Lemuel for good). It would would be easy for Nephi to even be a little frustrated with the Lord.

And I don’t know exactly what Nephi’s thoughts were, but we do know that he was angry. And we do know that this resulted in his loss of the Spirit.

And, instead of moping about it – Nephi praised God.

It certainly isn’t an intuitive action, but it yields great results.

***

I think that we can apply this into our own lives. I think that we probably know more about Christ than we realize. When is the last time you sat down and pondered and wrote about the Savior? When is the last time you praised Him? I am not sure that I do it enough. We can follow Nephi’s example. Remember your experiences with Him. Look for Him in your life. Recognize His tender mercies. And then, maybe take a few moments to write what you feel.

Nephi said:

“…For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.” – 2 Nephi 4:15

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Tender Mercies Surround Us

Yes, we can learn about the Savior through reading the scriptures. We can learn more about the Savior in our church services. However, we might have more experiential knowledge of our Savior than we realize. Making an effort to praise Him will help us to recognize the influence He has in our lives and it will teach us more about our Savior.

Choosing Christ and Liberty – 2 Nephi 2

All of the scriptures that we have are pretty amazing. I love The Book of Mormon, The Bible, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I love everything we learn in the scriptures.

But then, there are some scriptures and chapters that are absolutely amazing. 2 Nephi 2 is one of those chapters. It’s a doctrinal powerhouse where we learn about how we got here – on earth – and why we’re here. it teaches us how we can be happy. It addresses one of the problems we all face: opposition, and why that is actually a blessing. It teaches us about agency and liberty. All of these teachings hinge around the Savior.

There is so much to say, so I guess I’ll just write about one of the scriptures and concepts that is standing out to me a lot today.

There Is a God, and He Created Everything

Lehi teaches:

“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” – 2 Nephi 2:14-16

First of all, we learn:

  • There is a God.
  • He created all things – in the heavens and on the earth.
  • The things that God created include those things that act and those that are acted upon.

This last point – things to act and things to be acted upon – I have always loved this concept. When we consider the things that God created, some of them are inanimate. They don’t really “act” much. Then there are other things that do act. They are agents. As Elder Bednar explained:

“In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of agency—the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not only to be acted upon—especially as we seek to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.” – David A. Bednar

The Savior created us, and we have brains, spirits, bodies, wills. Above all, we have agency – the ability to act for ourselves. Of course, this is also in the context of opposition. We wouldn’t be able to “act” much if there were no choices.

Why? Why Come Here to Be Exposed to Opposition and Agency?

Why? The Lord wants us to be happy. But let’s think about that for a second.

Of course, when we think of opposition and agency, it can get a little overwhelming. Opposition is hard. The dilemmas and problems we face in life can be painful. Additionally, because we have the opportunity to be agents in our lives, this means others do, too. Often the actions of others have implications that bring us pain and suffering.

Sometimes it feels like agency is too painful to be worth the possible happiness. Sometimes it can be a temptation to go down the line of thinking that John Lennon preached – to imagine there’s no heaven. No hell. No countries. Nothing to kill or die for. No religion. No possessions. Nothing. I know that the song is popular, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way. (Note: I really love the Beatles and I liked John Lennon, but this song…just can’t do it). Here’s why – No religion. Nothing to die for. No heaven. No hope. No passion. Nothing.

It’s just bleak.

Not only that, but truly takes imagining because this scenario is imaginary. It is impossible. I’m not saying that because we aren’t capable of being loving beings. I’m saying that because It is a basic FACT of this world that there IS opposition. We might as well accept truth. There is day and night. There is high tide and low tide. There is good and evil.

Yes, the opposition that exists in this world can bring the possibility of some pretty terrible monsters. But it is also the only way to have good.

Lehi teaches what this world would be like if we had no opposition:

” For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:11-13

No opposition? No war? No death? No hell? No religion? Nothing to die for?

Well, then that would also mean No peace. No life. No heaven. No Hope. Nothing to live for. As Lehi said, “all things must have vanished away.”

Truly, the Lord’s plan is a great one – better than what we could have come up with! And in this plan, we are exposed to opposition with the option to exercise our agency.

God Had a Plan

Now, before we talk about happiness, we have to address what happened to get us to where we are.

Lehi teaches Jacob in 2 Nephi 2, that the Lord created the world and then set Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Prior to all of this, there was an angel in Heaven who rebelled against God and His plan (Lucifer, Satan). He came down to influence Adam and Eve.

The Lord allowed for this. As mentioned earlier, we wouldn’t be able to act for ourselves unless we were enticed by either good or evil. So, the Lord allowed for Satan to be His opposition.

Of course, we know that Eve was beguiled by Satan, she chose to eat the fruit, and then Adam followed suit. They were driven out of the Garden.

But remember – God had a plan! He lengthened the days of men and women on earth and gave them time to repent. The fall enabled Adam and Eve to have children (which was a command given by God!). Not only that, but because of the fall, there was a very miraculous result:

“…wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:23

If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit, it is true that they would have remained innocent and “blissful.” However, the result of the fall and even the incidental pain and suffering it introduced was also the ability to feel joy and to do good.

Instead of a world full of “nothing,” instead of “all things vanishing away,” Adam and Eve, their fall, and the death and hell that was introduced into the world gave way to purpose and joy.

Where’s the Happiness?

Lehi taught:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25

But how? How would they have joy? They had fallen. They had become susceptible to death. As other scriptures put it, they had become “carnal, sensual, and devilish.” Where is the joy in the fall?

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Well, Lehi continues:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” – 2 Nephi 2:26-27

Where is the Joy??? It is through the Messiah. The Lord, as we mentioned earlier, had a plan. He didn’t just send Adam and Eve, and you and I, to this earth to fail because of the weakness of our flesh. He offered up His son to redeem us from the ill effects of the fall, while still enjoying the benefits of it.

Because of Christ, we can experience life, we can be agents to act, and we can have hope for joy. Because of Christ, we become free forever. Instead of being innocent but ignorant beings living in a world void of opposition and opportunity, we learn how to exercise our agency that results in peace, satisfaction and joy – and this is all through the redemption of Christ.

The Redemption is Conditional

Notice in 2 Nephi 2:27, we are free to choose. It is up to us. We must make the choice – to choose Christ and His accompanying liberty and life or we can choose Satan and his captivity and death.

We must make a choice. Even “not making a choice,” choosing to be acted upon rather than to act, is a choice! If we don’t actively choose Christ, then we are actively choosing death and captivity. It’s pretty obvious – choose Christ! Choose life! Choose Joy! Choose Liberty! And it is such a comfort to know that this choice is on the table. It is a comfort to know that life, joy, and liberty are options – even in a world full of strife – all because of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

***

Lehi’s teachings in 2 Nephi 2 can point us in the right direction. It teaches us why we might want to choose Christ – because He offers us liberty and joy. His teachings teach us the very laws that govern this universe – such as the need for opposition and the need for a Savior. His teachings can motivate us to seek the Savior, to covenant with Him, and to keep His commandments.

As we continue to read the Book of Mormon, we will learn more about how to use our agency to access the life and liberty that Christ offers. But this chapter sets the groundwork that helps to motivate us to do so.

I love the Book of Mormon!

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.

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.

Past Feeling – 1 Nephi 17:43-47

You can read 1 Nephi 17:43-47 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is still speaking to his brothers. After the many years since the Jews were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they are wicked – nearly unto ripeness, and the Lord will allow to be destroyed. Nephi doesn’t know if they are destroyed yet, but they will be soon.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord commanded Lehi to depart into the wilderness because the Jews were going to kill him. And now, Laman and Lemuel are like them – seeking to kill Lehi, their own father.
  • Laman and Lemuel are swift to do iniquity, but slow to remember God and do good. They have had plenty of witnesses and tender mercies, but they choose not to feel His Spirit and direction.
  • Nephi asks, why are Laman and Lemuel so hard in their hearts???
  • Nephi’s soul is rent with anguish because of them. They are his brothers, and he fears that they will be cast off forever. He is so full of the Spirit of God that his body no longer has any strength.

Past Feeling

Well, in 1 Nephi 17, Laman and Lemuel are used to their typical stuff.

Let’s go over a few facts first:

One – Lehi and his family have been traveling in the wilderness for years they have traveled through the Arabian Peninsula – first along the borders of the Red Sea, and then they traveled in an Easterly direction until they made it to the shores of “many waters.” They called this land Bountiful, and it was not on the shores of the Red Sea (most likely they were in modern-day Oman).

I would imagine that this would have been hard.

Two – Although the journey was difficult, they were supported. The Lord enabled them to get the plates of brass. The Lord helped to soften Ishmael’s heart and bring his family into the wilderness so that Lehi’s sons could have wives. The Lord gave them the Liahona – an object that was of “curious workmanship.” An angel had appeared to Laman and Lemuel. Their hearts, though often prone to murmuring, had also been softened from time to time.

***

Yes, it would have been hard to do what they did. Yes, there were trials and difficulties that they faced throughout the journey, but they had also been supported. And here they are – on the seashore. They had a choice – to end their journey or to help Nephi build a ship and make it to that final step of the promised land.

Of course, Laman and Lemuel make their lives harder than they need to. Nephi states:

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.” – 1 Nephi 17:45

Swift to do Iniquity but Slow to Remember the Lord Your God

Nephi points out that Laman and Lemuel have an easy time with wickedness but find it very hard to remember the Lord, their God.

And it’s true. I’m not going to take the time to show the examples of this right now, but you can read through past entries. Laman and Lemuel never show the faith as a matter of default or instinct. Always, they question. Always, they trend toward wickedness. They are only motivated to be faithful when they have been compelled.

So – what do we learn from this? I suppose we can ask ourselves, what do I do? Am I swift to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord?

I don’t think that we need to have false humility here. Just answer it honestly. For myself, while I’m not perfect, I do make efforts to choose the righteous path. I try to maintain a faithful attitude even in the face of trial and adversity.

Obviously, there are times when I sin, and the Holy Ghost makes me aware of these issues. The Lord is patient with me as I’m trying to become a better person. But I don’t think that Nephi, or the Lord would ask me, why are you swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God?

Even though I don’t feel swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God, this doesn’t mean I can just sit back and say, Well, that’s not my problem. I think that it is helpful for us to remember how easy it is for us to adopt the same sort of behavior of Laman and Lemuel. It is the natural state of all of humankind to be swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God. We have to work against this behavior!

So what do we do? Standard church answers, I guess. We read the scriptures, pray, go to church. And when we do those things, we really do them. We ponder the scriptures. We pray with real intent.

Another thing that I have found helpful for maintaining my faith, hope, and trust in the Lord is by getting outside and being active – going for walks, hikes, runs, whatever. I like to do this on my own or while talking with a good friend. I’m also grateful for my camera. I try to take a picture of something I find beautiful that will help me to admire God’s creations and feel His love in my life.

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A walk in the woods.

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It is easier for me to remember the Lord’s influence in my life when I get outside for a few moments.

Ye Have Seen An Angel, and He Spake Unto You

This is probably one of the most mind boggling experiences in the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel literally saw an angel. And after the angel appeared to them, they doubt; they murmur.

I think that it is hard for anyone who has read the Book of Mormon to understand. How could they murmur? How would this not be a life-changing experience that helps them to become righteous??? I suppose it all has to do with their choice to have faith. Though the angel spoke to them, they didn’t have any faith. They chose not to believe. The Lord doesn’t force anything on us, and this is a prime example of how the Lord honors our agency.

I would also guess that their murmuring is a way that they are talking themselves out of the experience. That happens. Sometimes, we experience a tender mercy, and then tell ourselves, “it was just a coincidence.” I have witnessed people experience real miracles, yet they have a hard time accepting that these miracles came from a powerful, omniscient God who loves them. Instead, they find a way to wiggle out of the miracle. They find a way to murmur or doubt.

If we don’t recognize the miracles of our lives for the miracles that they are, then it is really easy to forget that we have “seen angels.”

Ye Have Heard His Voice from Time to Time; and He Hath Spoken to You in a Still, Small Voice

The Lord had tried many methods to communicate with Laman and Lemuel. He had sent an angel. They had heard His voice. He had spoken with them using a still small voice. But they don’t recognize Him. They don’t pay these voices any attention. Something as miraculous as an angel fell on deaf ears – because they chose to be deaf.

Again, I think that it is helpful for us to think about ourselves. Are there times when the Lord tries to speak to us, but we don’t hear? He speaks to us in a still, small voice are there times when the voices around us are too loud and distracting for us to hear His voice?

Ye Were Past Feeling

All of the methods of communication employed by Heavenly Father to Laman and Lemuel didn’t matter because they were past feeling. They didn’t know how to listen. They didn’t know how to recognize.

Their swift habit to do iniquity dulled their spiritual senses.

It’s all a choice. We have to remember that.

I’ll give an example that I think works, but I can’t be totally sure…so we’ll see.

I really love wildflowers. Earlier this year, at the end of spring/early summer, I knew that the days were getting long enough and the temperatures getting high enough that the wildflowers would start blooming.

A friend of mine had just returned from a hike, and I was talking with him. I asked, “Did you see any flowers blooming?” I knew, based on where he was hiking, that the glacier lilies and oregon grape should be blooming. They are always the first little yellow blooms to appear each spring.

His answer, “Nope. I didn’t see any flowers at all.”

I responded, “Oh…I guess they’ll be out there soon,” but I had to smile because I knew that they were already blooming. I hadn’t seen them, but all of the signs were there – the dandelions were blooming in hay fields. The small red-stem storksbill could be found in the cracks of sidewalks. Because of my past experiences, I knew the glacier lilies and other flowers were blooming.

And the next day, my husband and I hiked the same hike that the other friend had hiked the day before.

And you guessed it…there were wildflowers.

Now – there weren’t hundreds and thousands of wildflowers. It wasn’t July. These flowers are small and only occasionally dot the forest floor. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll breeze right past them. But they are there. And when you learn to look, you’ll find that there are quite a lot of them!

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Glacier Lily

I think that sometimes hearing the voice of the Lord is similar. You have to be tuned in. Your senses need to be sharpened. When you learn to look and listen for the Lord, you’ll find that your life is just filled with these little tender mercies. You’ll find that He truly is present in your life – trying to communicate with you. But he won’t force Himself on you.

Well, maybe that’s not totally true. Even if He does force Himself on us – just as Laman and Lemuel did see an angel, He doesn’t force us to listen, believe, or care.

There are plenty of times, on the trail, when you see a wildflower in a fairly obvious place – but a hiker has walked right on it, stamping it down. A bright flower in the middle of the trail couldn’t be more obvious, but still people might pass right by it and trample over it. Unfortunately, this is what we sometimes do with the Lord and His communication with us, too.

Being past feeling isn’t just something that happened to Laman and Lemuel. It isn’t something that Nephi is saying to make them feel like junk. It was a result of their repeated choices. Because they were past feeling, none of the blessings and tender mercies that they had experienced in their lives mattered. They couldn’t see, hear, or experience beauty.

Their choice to pass over God’s influence in their life reinforced their swiftness to do iniquity.

It’s all kind of sad. And stupid, really. Why make life harder than it is? Why not take the time to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives? Why not notice Him in the world around us? Why not feel?!?!

Scripture Power – 1 Nephi 17:23-42

You can read 1 Nephi 17:23-42 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Laman and Lemuel tried to dissuade Nephi from building the boat, Nephi responds to them in faith.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of their ancestors – which records were kept in the scriptures. He talks about how Moses and the children of Israel escaped from Egypt and were delivered to their own promised land.
  • Nephi recounts a few of the miracles that the Lord did to help the children of Israel – parting the Red Sea, leading them by and and giving them light by night, giving them manna, providing water for them in the wilderness, etc. Everything was done according to the word of the Lord.
  • Nephi also reminded Laman and Lemuel that the reason why the Lord let Israel inhabit a land filled with other people is because those people had become wicked. The Lord esteems all flesh in one. He is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t favor a group of people because of their pedigree. He favors those that keep His law. And those who do not keep the commandments cannot be protected by Him.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord created the earth to be inhabited. We have been blessed to be able to possess the earth.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord loves and will covenant with those who will have Him be their God. He covenanted with their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The covenant isn’t just a set of carte-blanche blessings. When the children of Israel hardened their hearts in the wilderness, the Lord straitened them with the rod. He sent fiery flying serpents among them, they were bitten, and he prepared a way for them to be healed. All they had to do was look, but many didn’t and chose to perish instead.
  • The children of Israel, from time to time, hardened their hearts against God and His prophet, Moses.
  • Despite their rebellion from time to time, the children of Israel were eventually led away from bondage in Egypt and to a land of promise.

Scripture Power

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look up to Nephi. He was faithful, optimistic, and courageous. In fact, there is a song that the children sing: Nephi was courageous.

I like Nephi, and I do think that he was courageous. That is indisputable. But I do think that sometimes we mythicize Nephi in a way that is unfair to him. I think that sometimes we just call him courageous, and end it there. It is a bit problematic.

I think that we forget he was a normal dude, and because of the choices he made, he was strengthened. What I mean is – he wasn’t just magically courageous. He actually made choices and did things that we can also do! we can become courageous like him.

In the children’s song, “Nephi’s Courage,” the the third verse states:

“. The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will 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.” – Bill N. Hansen, “Nephi’s Courage”

I really like this song. We can learn from Nephi. He truly was courageous. And yes, it is simple. We can choose to trust in God. We can choose to be courageous.

That’s the thing…Nephi didn’t know how he would make a boat, but he had full trust in the Lord. This trust in the Lord came from his humility and willingness to pray (we read about that in 1 Nephi 2); it came from his willingness to exercise his faith and put the Lord to the test (and succeeding! – we read about this many times – when he got the plates in 1 Nephi 3 and 4 for starters); his trust in the Lord was cultivated when Nephi took time to notice and remember the tender mercies of the Lord (which he recounts in 1 Nephi 15).

This trust in the Lord is what makes Nephi courageous in the face of trial, danger, and what seems to be “the impossible.”

In 1 Nephi 17, we read of another source of Nephi’s courage and trust in God. He has seen the Lord work in the lives of other people. These experiences inspire Nephi, give him hope, and facilitate his trust in God. They encourage Nephi to believe that the Lord will empower him, as well. The experiences that inspire Nephi were recorded and handed down from generation to generation. They are the scriptures.

The primary children also sing a song called “Scripture Power,” and I can’t help but think of Nephi when I hear the words of this song…specifically the line “scripture power is the power to win!”

Nephi already had the strength and the faith to complete the task that the Lord gave him, I know this. But I really think that the scriptures were a major part of the strength and faith that Nephi had cultivated in his life. And now that his brothers are mocking and questioning his obedience, Nephi uses the scriptures to persuade his brothers that they can obey and they can build a boat.

Nephi reminds Laman and Lemuel of their own ancestors – the children of Israel – and their flight from Egypt. There was nothing logical about this escape. It was miraculous. It was all dependent on their faith and trust in God.

Nephi reminds his brothers that:

  • Moses and the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry ground.
  • The Egyptians followed the Israelites and were drowned in the Red Sea.
  • The children of Israel were fed in the wilderness with manna from heaven.
  • Moses smote the rock and it brought forth water for the Israelites.
  • The Lord led them by day in a cloud and gave them light by night.
  • The Lord punished them and blessed them according to their faith and His word.
  • The children of Israel not only escaped from bondage, but were led to a promised land. The Lord fulfilled His promises.

Though Nephi has never built a boat, their situation is not unprecedented. The Lord has power to deliver and has delivered, strengthened, and supported his people throughout time. Nephi knew that the Lord was capable of delivering him and his family because He had done it before. Nephi knew that if the Lord could free the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, if the Lord could part the Red Sea, if the Lord could feed them manna from heaven, if the Lord could bring them water from rocks, if the Lord could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness to a promised land, then the Lord could help Nephi build a boat. The Lord could deliver Nephi and his family.

And what is the condition for such deliverance – strict obedience to the words of the Lord. If Nephi wanted to be delivered (which I think he did!), then he needed to obey the commandments that the Lord gave him. In this instance, the commandment was to build a boat. So that is what Nephi must do. It may sound insane, but Nephi knows through his own experiences and through the testimonies recorded in the scriptures that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Nephi’s faith and trust in the Lord gives him the courage he needs to get the job done – and to persuade his brothers to help!

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I love this example. I have needed it in my own life. I can’t even begin to guess how many times the stories of the scriptures have helped me to cultivate the faith I needed to have courage through my own trials. The Lord gives us commandments – both general and very specific, and He wants us to obey. And why does He want us to obey…so He can bless us!

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend. I had a very distinct impression:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

So often, when we face obstacles in our lives, they may be overcome in more than one way. The Lord will help us to overcome our obstacles, that is the truth. However, I am learning that He doesn’t always do the thing that seems to be the most intuitive to us. Maybe His way takes longer than we would like. His way might cost us more money, more time, or other sacrifices. Often His way requires more faith!

But we must trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding. We must have courage in the face of affliction. We must trust His inspiration when facing and overcoming the obstacles in our lives. And why? Well, because He is interested not only in our immediate successes in life, but also in the big picture. He has a work and a glory – to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

If we will do things His way, then we can rest assured that we will be delivered from the real problem: death and hell. We can rest assured that we will do our work on earth and receive comfort and joy – both now and in the life to come.

Nephi always trusted in the Lord. He didn’t fight with the Lord to do thing his way. Yes – there were times when Nephi had to figure out solutions to his problems. But this was not done at the expense of inspiration he received from God. Nephi’s courage to keep the commandments with exactness is what enabled him to be delivered from the trials of the wilderness and inherit a promised land.

If we will have the courage to trust God and obey Him with exactness, then we will also be enabled, empowered, and delivered.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures! We have the example of Moses. We have the example of Nephi. We have the examples of so many who did and who did not follow the Lord! If we will utilize the scriptures in our lives as Nephi did, then we will also have the power to win!