The Nature of God – 1 Nephi 10:18-22

You can read 1 Nephi 10:18-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi wants to know the mysteries of God. He is also testifying of the kind of god that God is.

The Nature of our Heavenly Father

I’ve been so fascinated by the scripture in 1 Nephi 2 –

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

I don’t know if this is the most important scripture, but I think that it is quickly making its way into the top ten of “most important scriptures.” (Interesting idea for a post, huh?!). Why do I think that it is so important?

Because in this scripture, we get the key to trusting God. Laman and Lemuel murmur because they know not the dealings of that God who had created them.

While we might not outright murmur against God, it can be hard to conjure up the kind of faith and trust in God that made Nephi so courageous. As I’ve been writing these last few days – Nephi isn’t mythical or magical. He is normal like you and me. Yes he was courageous. And we can be courageous, too. How – knowing the God that created us.

So – here in 1 Nephi, 10, we can learn more about Heavenly Father. Through understanding more about His nature, we can develop the kind of trust in Him that will help to make us courageous.

One – God is a Giver of Gifts

“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 10:17

Heavenly Father has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is a gift of God to all who diligently seek Him.

We shouldn’t confuse this with the power of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift that is given by they laying on of hands by those in authority. It is a gift that is given by way of covenants and ordinances. We must be baptized, by immersion, and then one who is authorized and worthy to hold and administer in the Melchizedek Priesthood can bestow this gift on us.

We must diligently seek God first – and then covenant with Him by following Christ into the waters of baptism. Additionally, we must be willing to keep His commandments and always remember Him, otherwise we remove ourselves from the companionship and gift of the Holy Ghost.

There will be more study on this later on (in 2 Nephi 32, for sure…maybe before, too.)

The real point is – God hasn’t left us alone on this earth. He has given us a gift that empowers us and makes us capable. It is the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I truly can’t imagine a better gift. When I was younger, I kind of felt like it was a cheesy concept – the Holy Ghost being a gift. But now, I realize that there has been no better gift in my life than the constant companionship of the comforter.

And this is the kind of God we believe in – one who will give us constant access to a member of the godhead as a gift.

Two – Consistent

“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…” – 1 Nephi 10:18

Heavenly Father is consistent and unchanging. Now, we have to understand, that means that Heavenly Father is consistent and unchanging. This doesn’t mean that His commandments are unchanging. We can look at dietary codes – dietary codes have always existed because Heavenly Father is unchanging and He cares not only about our spiritual health but also our temporal health. But the codes themselves change – they are based on time periods and place. Though the Word of Wisdom is a little different than the dietary rules of ancient Jews, the concept behind it – the principle with a purpose – has the same purpose. It is God that is unchanging, but He often will change His methods to suit us.

We can trust Him. His intentions are always the same even if his procedures differ. We can trust Him because He loves us – because His work and glory are our immortality and eternal life.

We can also trust that He works the same way. He is a God of miracles. He will reveal to us through His Spirit – the Holy Ghost. We can seek answers faithfully and trust Him – knowing that He Will Answer.

Three – He Has a Plan

“…the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.” – 1 Nephi 10:18

There is a plan for us and for our lives. We aren’t accidental creations of our God. We aren’t mistakes. The Fall, for example, wasn’t a big mess-up. It was a part of a plan. This plan has always had a way to provide us success. This way is the Savior. If we repent and come unto Him, then there is a way for us to return to God.

And this way has existed even before the earth was created.

We can trust God because not only is He God, but He has a plan!.

Four – Eternal

“…the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:19

I really hope that I revisit this concept soon because maybe it is worth an in-depth study on its own. But for now, when I think of “one eternal round,” I think of the eternal nature of God. I think of the Hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob”:

The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.” – If You Could Hie to Kolob – really go read all of the lyrics to this song. Amazing

Another quote I really like that has helped me to understand more about “one eternal round” was given by Elder Maxwell:

“Repeatedly God has described His course as reiterative, “one eternal round”…. We mortals sometimes experience boredom in the routine repetition of our mortal tasks, including even good works; and thus vulnerable, we are urged not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9; D&C 64:33; 84:80; Alma 37:34). But given God’s divine love, there is no boredom on His part amid His repetitive work, for his course, though one eternal round, involves continuous redemption for His children; it is full of goodness and mercy as His long-suffering shows His love in action. In fact we cannot even comprehend the infinite blessings which await the faithful—”eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:9)” – Neal A. Maxwell

He is eternally working, eternally creating, eternally existing. He is doing this with pure love and without boredom. What a loving God. I can’t even imagine. I get annoyed. I get bored. I get sick of my kids asking the same thing. Why do they need dinner every single night? Didn’t they just eat yesterday?

Yet God’s is one eternal round, and we can take comfort in this. Even though He has had billions of children, He still keeps listening to us, loving us, and answering our prayers.

Five – Clean

“…no unclean thing can dwell with God…” – 1 Nephi 10:21

God is clean. He is free from the filth of wickedness and sin. And He dwells in cleanliness. Not only that, but we learn that no unclean thing can dwell with Him.

We need to remember this because there will be a point when we are judged for our works on this earth. Does this mean that we need to be “perfect” in and of ourselves – and without the Savior? NO! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE! Remember – God has a plan, and there is a way. It is through Christ.

Christ will perfect us. Christ will make us clean.

And yes, we must be perfect and clean to enter into God’s kingdom.

This is not taught to us to make us feel bad about being imperfect. We are taught this truth so that we will come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

If we choose not to come unto Christ, if we choose to remain in wickedness, then we will be unclean. And we will not be permitted to dwell with God – whose state is a state of never-ending joy and peace.

So – we must remember this fact, and when we consider it along with the other facts – that God has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost, that He is Consistent, that God has a plan, that He is eternal – we can have hope! We can be clean! There is a way and so many blessings that make life and peace and joy (forever!) with Him possible.

***
Thunderstorm right now. I have to end. I will lose my wifi if I don’t! Please don’t judge me if there are mistakes…Thanks!!!!!!

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Lehi Prophesies of John the Baptist – 1 Nephi 10:7-10

You can read 1 Nephi 10:7-10.

Context and General Information

  • After Lehi prophesied of the coming of the Savior, he prophesied of the prophet that would come to prepare the way of the Savior.
  • Lehi prophesied that this man would go forth and cry in the wilderness. He would also baptize Jesus Christ.
  • Lehi prophesied that after baptizing the Messiah, he would then testify that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who should take away the sins of the world.
John the Baptist

John Preaching in the Widlerness, by Del Parson

John the Baptist

I find the prophecies about John the Baptist really fascinating. All of the prophets testify and prophesy of Christ. However, it isn’t very often that there is a prophecy about a prophet.

And I wonder why that is. Right now, off the top of my head, the only prophecies of prophets I can think of is this – John the Baptist and Joseph Smith (See 2 Nephi 3.)

I can’t say that I’m exactly sure why there are prophecies of John the Baptist, so let’s go ahead and look him up in the Bible Dictionary.

“Son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, being of priestly descent through both parents. This lineage was essential, since John was the embodiment of the law of Moses, designed to prepare the way for the Messiah and make ready a people to receive Him. He was the outstanding bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood in all history and was entrusted with its most noble mission.” – Bible Dictionary: John the Baptist

Okay. So I didn’t really know this. The embodiment of the law of Moses. That is interesting. Preparing the way for the Savior.

FYI, I haven’t thought this through. I’ve had a busy day, and am getting to my scripture study kind of late, so today is a bit more “stream of consciousness” than usual. Welcome to my brain. Please don’t judge me. 🙂

Back to what we were saying before. Here are the thoughts I’m having in regards to “preparing” and “embodiment of the Law of Moses.”

The Law of Moses was a preparatory gospel paving the way for the higher law that the Lord would give in His ministry.

The Aaronich Priesthood is a preparatory priesthood which leads to the Melchizedek Preisthood.

John the Baptist is kind of a signpost for this change – from the lower law to the higher law. He prepared the way for Christ.

There is so much more in the Bible Dictionary about John the Baptist, but I think that we will study it later. For now, I want to focus on the tenth verse:

“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

I just love this scripture because it makes me think of the fulfillment of this prophecy. In the New Testament, we read:

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29

This is the very moment that is prophesied of by Lehi – this is the moment where the lesser priesthood makes way for the higher priesthood; where the lesser law of Moses makes way for the higher law of Christ.

John the Baptist has a large following. Instead of trying to nurture his own numbers and ego, he turns them over to the Savior. That’s what the lesser law is all about, after all – preparing for the Messiah. And here, John the Baptist – who was testified to precede Christ, did precede the Christ. John the Baptist was a humble prophet who fulfilled his mission on this earth.

By the way – one of the reasons why I love that scripture from John so much is because it is one of the scriptures included in Handel’s Messiah.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine being there, listening to the John the Baptist utter those words, “Behold the Lamb of God.???

***
The prophets knew that the Savior would come. That this gospel is real. That there is a purpose to our lives here on earth, and that purpose is possible because of the Messiah. And because of the testimonies of the prophets, we too can know that the gospel is real, that there is a purpose to our lives on earth, and that purpose is possible because of the Messiah.

Two Sets of Records – 1 Nephi 9:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 9:1-4 here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi saw, heard, and spoke many things while in the valley of Lemuel.
  • Nephi has two sets of plates – one that has the full account of the history of his people. He has given those the name: The Plates of Nephi. These plates include the reign of the kings, the wars, and the contentions of his people.
  • The Lord commanded Nephi that he should make another set of plates – for a special purpose – that Nephi would keep an account of the ministry of his people.
  • The account that we are reading here in 1 Nephi is from the small plates that Nephi kept – the ministry.

nephi-plates

Two Sets of Records

Chapter nine in 1 Nephi is an interjection given by Nephi. I think that he is writing chapter 9 in the present tense – while the other chapters are flashbacks. The chapters that follow are flashbacks, too.

I’m not 100% sure, but I feel that Nephi received the commandment to abridge his records in 2 Nephi 5:30-32. As I said, I can’t be completely sure of precisely when, but it would make sense to me. By 2 Nephi 5, Nephi is living in a more stable condition – he is no longer in the wilderness, he is in the promised land, and he is safe from the threat of his brothers.

So – there are two sets of records:
One – The History
The first set is the original set of records Nephi kept. Before him, his father had kept records, too. It had the historical information of his family and their experiences. It included their wars and the reign of their king. (Note – they didn’t have a king until after settling in the promised land, yet this chapter mentions the reign of kings which is another reason that I think Nephi didn’t get his command to make the second set of plates until then).

This set of plates is informative and it probably would have been interesting, especially if you like history. However, it may have been distracting. I have often wondered what if we knew more about the cultural practices of the Nephites? I think that it might be a challenge to our faith if we really knew more about their practices and customs. Instead, because we don’t have this set of records, we get their testimonies without some of the cultural disparities.

Two – The Ministry
The second set of plates is a record that Nephi kept after being commanded by the Lord. Nephi was commanded to abridge some of his father’s record and include it in this set of plates.

When the Lord instructed Nephi to write these plates, he told him to specifically focus on the ministry and things of faith. We will come to see that these records – which include 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Omni are a doctrinal powerhouse.

***
Tomorrow, we will study about the wisdom of the Lord in giving Nephi the commandment to make the second set of plates, but here is something to contemplate in the meantime…

Do you keep a journal? Have you ever looked over them years after you wrote them? Have you thought about writing your own record of the tender mercies that you have experienced in your life?

I know that a lot of people write personal histories. I think that’s great, and I keep on thinking that I’ll getting around to doing that. Another thing I’ve thought of doing is writing a spiritual personal history, where I contemplate the lessons and miracles that I have experienced in my own life – that have shaped my belief and testimony.

I have been keeping a blog for about 9 years now. I’ve also been writing in a scripture journal for about 17 or 18 years. Every once in a while, I try to peruse those things that I have written. It often amazes me, and it is a good way for me to really reinforce what I have learned.

I imagine that for Nephi, going through his own experiences was not only a commandment from God, but that it blessed his life. I think that he was probably reminded of lessons learned from past experiences. I like to think that this assignment, though time consuming and difficult, blessed not only our lives (as we will discuss tomorrow), but his life, too.

The Faithful Group – 1 Nephi 8:30, 33

Here is today’s reading:

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

…AND… 

“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.” – 1 Nephi 8:33

I know that you just read this, but I find that I really learn better when I take a second to really summarize what is happening.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi’s Dream, continued.
  • Lehi sees other multitudes pressing forward.
  • This group catches hold of the iron rod and presses forward continually holding fast.
  • This group finally makes it to the tree of life, and they partake of the fruit.
  • Though this group was also being mocked by the people in the great and spacious building, they don’t give any heed to the jeers.

Dragon Fruit

The Faithful Group

So – we are reading about the final group of people in Lehi’s dream. Those who partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and they remain faithful and loyal to it.

Often, I find myself comparing this group with the group of people that partook of the tree of life and then were ashamed.

And then I wonder why and how? I mean, they both start on the path to the tree of life. Neither of them are like the multitudes that ignore the tree of life altogether. They seem to have so much in common for so long. Both groups even succeed! They both partake of the fruit! Yet the success is short lived with one and enduring with the other.

Even though they both seem to have so much in common, there are a few nuanced differences.

Continually Holding Fast

Okay, so I just utilized my favorite scripture study resource (other than the scriptures)…the dictionary. Here is what we read about fast. Note – this is the first entry for the word fast

Fast – Adjective
a : firmly fixed

  • roots fast in the ground
b : tightly shut

  • the drawers were fast
c : adhering firmly

  • The boards were fast a few hours after being glued together.
d : not easily freed : stuck 

  • a ball fast in the mouth of the cannon
e : stable 

  • movable items were made fast to the deck

Firmly fixed, tightly shut, adhering firmly. This is how the final group of people we read about are described. They aren’t clinging to the rod, they are fixed to the rod.

What a difference this connotation makes!

The group that rejects the fruit were using the rod, but there was a hint of fear in how they proceeded. This faithful group, however, held fast. They adhered firmly, and were fixated on their goal rather than the world around them.

This group pressed their way forward in faith, rather than fear. In my mind, when we move forward with faith, it is closely related to creation. They had the vision in their minds – the fruit of the tree of life, then faithfully they moved forward. They wanted to create a future for themselves based on the vision they had.

I know that in my life, if I have a vision and it is based on faith – of who I want to be or accomplish, then I have more tenacity to accomplish it. Not only that, but the experience – both on the path and then the accomplishment –  is more enjoyable. It is an act of creation that was based in faith. Rather than a set of reactions based on fear.

We are agents to act, rather than be acted upon. When we have faith, when we are holding fast to the rod and pressing forward, then we are creating our lives and using our agency to create the best life possible.

One last thing, because I know that I probably need to flesh this out more, and I’m not going to do that now…They didn’t create this on their own. They created while holding fast to the Iron Rod. They understood their interdependence on the Lord. They trusted in him despite mists of darkness and the loud yells of those in the great and spacious building.

And they reap eternal joy.

We Heeded Them Not

This is the other difference between the two groups. This faithful group didn’t listen to the people in the great and spacious building. And why would they?!

I think that it goes back to this ability for them to exercise agency. They lived in a faithful, rather than reactive, state. Instead of hearing the scoffing and mocking of those in the great and spacious building, and responding with fear, this group is unemotional and capable of making a smart decision.

Think about it. What do the people in the great and spacious building know about the fruit? Nothing! Why would they mock it? Why do they care so much? If the great and spacious building is so great and spacious, why are they making a point to spend their time deriding others? Go in and enjoy your building, people!

The faithful who had partaken of the fruit were exposed to the jeers. They heard the mocking. But they didn’t listen. They didn’t “heed.” They faithfully endured so much to partake of the fruit of the tree. When they finally made it to the tree of life, they fell down. It wasn’t easy. But they were filled with joy, and they were confident in their choices and abilities. The jeers didn’t mean anything to them because they knew better.

Here’s a dumb example, but it might illustrate my point
I know someone who hates guacamole. (Impossible, I know). I don’t think that this person, we’ll call her Guaca has ever tried guacamole. It would be one thing if it didn’t agree with her. I would understand if she had given it a fair chance, and then decided Nah…It’s not for me.

But that’s not the case. She doesn’t like it, and she loves to mock it at any opportunity. “Yuckamole!” Is what she calls it.

Do you know my response?

Oh well. Who cares. MORE FOR ME!!!!!!!!! HAHA. I guess the “more for me” response is probably not Christlike. But it doesn’t matter to me that she won’t eat. I shrug my shoulders like, “Wow. You’re missing out.” But I’m not shamed into giving up that green goodness. No way. Not one single iota.

Now – this example (I know that some of you reading this will be familiar with this personal example) is harmless. I know that the guacamole hater is a good person, sincere, and kind. I know that the guacamole hater would never want to keep me from that which gives me joy in my life. So, maybe I shouldn’t even use the example.

I just want to illustrate what might have been the process for those who had partaken of the fruit. The mocking, the jeers, the opinions didn’t faze them because they had actually eaten the fruit and they knew better.

Of course, all of this is a display of their choice to live in a faith-model rather than fear-model. No amount of external pressure would sway them from the truth – that the tree of life was the most desirable, sweet, joyful fruit that they had ever eaten.

I feel like there is a lot of rambling in this post. I’m sorry.

Personal Application

Eat more guacamole. hahaha. Just kidding.

In seriousness, I know that there are times when I let my fears get the best of me. I am afraid of looking stupid, hurting people, failing, being wrong. When I let these fears into my heart, they start to control me. I might tend to “cling” to the rod rather than press forward.

If, instead, I choose to have faith and trust in God, that it doesn’t matter what other people say or think – it only matters what God says or thinks, then I will be able to partake of that fruit. It will be sweet. I will have the discernment to recognize it’s sweetness and desirability, and I will not heed those who try to sway me from my decision.

Shame and Fear – 1 Nephi 8:24-28

You can read 1 Nephi 8:24-28 here.

Context and General Information

  • This is a continuation of Lehi’s dream.
  • Lehi sees a group of people who caught hold of the iron rod. They cling to it through the mists of darkness and eventually partake of the fruit of the tree of life.
  • After partaking of the fruit, however, they look around and they are ashamed.
  • Lehi looked around, and then he saw a great and spacious building – filled with people dressed well, mocking, pointing fingers, and jeering at those who partook of the fruit of the tree of life.
  • The group of people that Lehi saw – that clung to the iron rod and then partook of the tree were so ashamed by those scoffing at them that they fell away – even after partaking of the sweetest, most desirable fruit imaginable.
ashamed

Worried…

Shame and Fear

There are a lot of ways to interpret Lehi’s dream and the groups of people that are represented in his dream. Today, we are studying the second group of people – those who make it to the tree of life, partake of the fruit, then leave it because they are ashamed. I feel that one thing that this group of people teaches us is about the danger of living our lives in fear.

Before I go on, I want to mention (as I have before) this is only a dream. These groups of people are two dimensional. We are supposed to be learning a lesson. Maybe each of us can fit into more than one category of person described in Lehi’s dream. So, if you are reading this, then don’t think that I believe that there are three types of people in this world – as represented in Lehi’s dream. I don’t really think that. I believe in the power of Christ’s atonement – that it can help us no matter which group we might identify with.

That being said, it is good to learn from these groups so we don’t make the same mistakes that they made in our own lives.

We read:

“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:24

Things start out pretty good for this group. They press forward, catch a hold of the iron rod, press forward through the mists of darkness, and then eventually come to the tree of life.

But notice the word…clinging.

When we read this word – clinging – it gives us an idea about this people. To me, it seems like they are afraid. And, initially, I think that they are afraid for a good reason. They are afraid to fail. They don’t want to get lost! They want to get to the tree of life, and they are so afraid that they won’t make it, they cling to the rod. They hold on tight to it – overly dependent. Afraid.

And it works…for now.

Sometimes fear seems like a good motivator. Maybe as parents, we explain the rules of our home, or even the commandments of the gospel in the context that if we break the commandment, then something bad will happen to us. If we don’t look before crossing the street, then we might get run over by a car. If we break the word of wisdom, then we might get addicted to drugs or worse.

And it’s true. Bad decisions result in negative consequences.

But, at some point, we have to be motivated by faith. We keep the word of wisdom because we want hidden treasures of knowledge – because we want to run and not be weary and walk and not faint. We keep the commandments because we love and trust God and know that His commandments are given to us because He loves us and wants to bless us.

Unfortunately, many of us might not learn this. Maybe some people go on a mission because they are afraid of what others might think. They are pressured into getting married because they are old enough to be considered a “menace to society.” Maybe some people participate in the church and the gospel because the society around them is doing it, too. That’s what is acceptable.

With fear in their hearts – worried about what others might think, worried that they might fail, or just afraid of what will happen if they don’t make it to the tree of life, this group “clings” to the gospel or rod of iron.

The thing that I’ve learned about fear is, you can’t be motivated it and then live unaffected by it. If you choose fear, then you have fear – even when you overcome that which it is you feared. Sounds strange, I know – and I’ll explain better in a second.

We read:

“And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.”

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spaciousbuilding; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mockingand pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:25-28

First of all, I realize that these scriptures don’t say that the people were afraid. So, let’s look at what ashamed means:

  • embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations.
  • reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation. – Definition of Ashamed

The reason that these people feel ashamed is because they are getting made fun of. They fear the judgments and jeering of those in the great and spacious building.

But wait! They had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life! It is sweet and delicious – sweeter than anything else, and filling their souls with joy, right?

Well, that’s the thing – they had been motivated by fear, rather than faith, to get to this tree. While the fruit is good, there are still people who don’t approve of their decisions. They can’t shake the fear, because that is the mental model that they live in.

The fruit of the tree of life can’t fill them with faith. Faith is what should have propelled them toward the fruit in the first place. Instead, because they were inspired by fear, fear remains, and they reject the joy, the perfect love that could have cast it out.

I’m writing this quickly because I’m short on time today, so I hope that this makes sense.

I’ll give a personal example.

Several years ago, I was living in Phoenix, AZ. I was honestly trying the best I knew how – to be a mom, wife, etc.

Phoenix

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was motivated mostly on fears. I was afraid that I wasn’t doing enough for my kids – that they weren’t in enough extra-curricular activities, that they were in too many activities, that they didn’t have healthy enough lunches, that I was not supplementing their schoolwork with enough extra material. I was afraid that I wasn’t doing enough as a wife – that my house was too messy, that I was overweight, that I wasn’t doing enough.

I was afraid of what I might become – that I might get lazy, that I might do something that annoys my children and then they would hate me, that I might do something that annoys my husband and he’d leave me.

I knew so much of what I didn’t want, what I was afraid of. And every single effort – even though these efforts were good things (ie: making my kids lunches, keeping the house organized, exercising, etc) – every single effort was made out of fear.

Working in a fear modality is exhausting. In my mind it is like being stuck in a Chinese finger-trap. You are working so hard to resist it, that you waste tons of effort while its grip gets stronger.

Fear is a Chinese-finger trap for life. You work so hard resisting, that it strengthens its hold on you. It can consume us, just as it did the second group of people in Lehi’s dream, unless we decide to root it out of our lives and replace it with something else:

Faith.

Back to my example from above.

One evening I was out on a trail run in some trails that were near my house. Sometimes trail running can be tricky. In Phoenix, there are rocks, snakes, cactus. You have to be smart about every step you take. This particular trail was quite rocky and gravelly – so it was easy to lose footing and slip.

I was running downhill, and that is especially slippery in gravel. I had learned that instead of trying to go too slowly and carefully (or fearfully!) down the hill, I needed to trust myself and lightly bounce/run down the hill.

I had also learned that if you focus on the obstacles of the trail – the rocks, the roots, the obstacles, then you will trip over them. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to go, when you are trail running, you need to focus on where you are going! 

While I ran, I realized that life is a lot like trail running. I realized that in my life, I was focusing on the problems and obstacles. I was living in fear! I realized that by living and operating in a fear modality, I was focusing on fear! Every effort was about that fear – that which I resisted. If I continued to focus on that fear, it would end up taking me down.

Instead, I realized that I could choose to live my life by faith. Instead of thinking of the kind of mother/wife/woman I don’t want to be, I could choose the kind of mother/wife/woman I wanted to be and I could put my effort to that! I also realized that if I continued on in the fear modality, even if I did everything the best – even if my house was spotless, I was a size two, and my kids all scored perfectly on the SATs – I would still be fearful.

There is always something to fear when we choose to live in that mindset. When we let fear be our guides, then we will get to the fruit of the tree of life, partake, then look around, worried. With fear as our constant companion – we would notice the mocking of those in the great and spacious building, and we’d feel shame. With fear in our hearts, we would reject the joy of the fruit, and walk away from the tree – forever controlled by our fears.

***

We can learn from this group of people. We can choose to give up our fears and replace them with faith. It is when we have faith that we will be able to create the life that leads to sweetness and joy.

 

 

 

Desirable Fruit – 1 Nephi 8:10-12

You can read 1 Nephi 8:10-12 here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi is having his Vision
  • Lehi sees a tree with fruit that is desirable to make one happy.
  • Lehi partook of the fruit. It was sweet above all that he had before tasted and white above all whiteness he had ever seen.
  • When Lehi partook of the fruit, it filled his soul with joy.
  • Lehi was desirous that his family should also partake of the fruit.

lehi-dream-1132729-gallery

Desirable Fruit

If you remember from yesterday’s reading, Lehi had been in a dark and dreary waste. He saw a man who bid Lehi to come and follow Him. Lehi did.

After following Him, Lehi found himself in the dark and dreary waste again. This time, he prayed, and then saw a spacious field and a tree.

Even from afar off, he saw that the tree had desirable fruit.

What made the fruit so desirable? Why did he want it so bad?

Seeing a Tree of Life After Traveling in a Dark and Dreary Waste

Well – first of all, I suppose that seeing this tree with white fruit was a stark contrast from the dark and dreary world that he had been in prior to seeing the tree. He described it as a “dark and dreary waste.” After being in such a dark and dreary waste, the glowing tree would seem quite desirable.

Desirable to Make One Happy

Again, I think that it is helpful to think of the Fruit in contrast to the “dark and dreary waste.”

Even though I can understand what “dreary” means, I thought that I’d look it up in the dictionary:

“Dull, bleak, and lifeless; depressing.”

Imagine the joy to see a tree – wait, not just any tree – the Tree of Life after being lost in a dark and dreary world … a dark, dull, bleak, lifeless, and depressing world. Imagine that joy.

The idea that is coming to me is that it would be like “seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Lehi wandered in darkness, lifelessness. It was discouraging and depressing. I’m willing to guess that maybe Lehi even felt hopeless. In fact, we know that after a while, he finally prayed to God for help.

And after that prayer, things opened up for him. He saw a large field. And then, a tree – full of life. The antithesis of that dark and dreary waste in which he had spent hours wandering.

Sweet

We read:

“And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted.” – 1 Nephi 8:11

I’ve got a sweet tooth, so I don’t need any more convincing on why this fruit was great.

White Fruit

Again, we read:

“Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.” – 1 Nephi 8:11

Not only was the fruit sweet, but Lehi describes it as “white” – to exceed all of the whiteness he had ever seen.

I think that this is symbolic of Lehi’s understanding that it is not just any old fruit. This fruit is special. It is heavenly. The fruit of this tree is not like an apple, pear, or even a mango. It has a quality – perhaps it’s even shining out because it is so white.

And we have to remember that this was a dream. Everything Lehi is experiencing is within his dream. Which means that everything is symbolic of something else.

I suppose if I was having a dream, and there was a tree with white, glowing fruit – in stark contrast to the dark and dreary world where I had just been – I think that I would recognize this tree as celestial.

So – that’s my best guess on the “whiteness” of this tree.

“It Filled My Soul with Exceedingly Great Joy”

Lehi’s determination to partake of this fruit is good. His instincts – that this fruit was desirable to make one happy – were right. He proceeds to the tree, partakes, and then we read:

“And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy;” – 1 Nephi 8:12

Even though so much has changed in the last 2600 years, there are some things that are still the exact same. We want to be happy. Isn’t that so much of what motivates us, for better or for worse?

What I mean is, often we make decisions – even if they are bad decisions – because on some level we think that the decision will result in happiness.

Lehi was in a dark and dreary waste. He was feeling depressed and discouraged. Then, he saw a tree with bright fruit. A beacon of hope in a dark world. This fruit, he came to find, brought him exceedingly great joy.

Personal Application

There are times when the world we live in may seem like a “dark and dreary waste.” It can be easy to keep wandering around aimlessly, depressed in the gloom.

But we don’t have to be. There is hope. We can follow Lehi’s example. We can pray. Then, when we do, we can look around and notice the joy that the Savior is offering to us. We can take time to notice the tree of life, and then change the bearings and courses of our lives so that we will be able to partake of it.

Of course, in discussing this metaphor, obtaining the fruit of the tree might be a “life-time quest.” But I think that if we will open our hearts and eyes to it, we have more of it in our lives right now than we realize.

Even now, on a daily basis, how do we invite love, warmth, joy, and light into our lives? We call upon the Lord. We recognize Him. We look forward with hope. Instead of focusing on the dark and dreary waste, we can look to the tree of life with hope in our hearts – knowing that soon we’ll be able to partake of it and experience “exceedingly great joy.”

Dude in Distress – 1 Nephi 7:17-20

Read today’s assignment 1 Nephi 7:17-20 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi, tied up by his brothers Laman and Lemuel, prays to God for deliverance. He asks for strength.
  • The Lord blesses Nephi – the bands are loosed, and he stands before his brethren.
  • Laman and Lemuel see that Nephi is free and they are angry again!
  • One of Ishmael’s daughters, her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael plead with Laman and Lemuel for Nephi.
Damsel in Distress

St. George and the Dragon, by Paolo Uccello – modify this so that the chick is on the horse and the dude is behind the dragon – and you have Nephi and his future bride. 🙂

Nephi – A Dude in Distress

This has got to be one of my favorite moments in the Book of Mormon. Probably because I’m a woman. I don’t know.  Anyway – let’s get on with it and you’ll see why.

One – Nephi is Bound

Yesterday, when we left off, Nephi had been bound by his brothers Laman and Lemuel because they were angry with him. They wanted to leave him for dead.

Two – Nephi Prays for Deliverance

In verse 17, we read:

“But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.” – 1 Nephi 7:17

Nephi is a “do-it-yourself” kind of guy. He doesn’t ask the Lord to free him, He asks the Lord for the strength to be able to free himself.

This is such a good example to me. I have a tendency to be a little bit lazy in my prayers and life in general. I always forget that God isn’t “magic.” He operates under a set of universal laws, and while He does offer grace, and He is a God of miracles, first and foremost, He is a parent. With that in mind, I think that He wants to give us opportunities to grow and stretch ourselves, rather than to just do stuff for us anytime we ask.

Nephi seems to understand this about Heavenly Father. He doesn’t say, “Please get me out of these ropes.” Instead, Nephi prays for increased strength so that he can burst the bounds. Nephi isn’t afraid of a little bit of work.

Because of his faith and willingness to do whatever it takes to receive what God is willing to give Him, Nephi’s prayer is answered.

Nephi’s Prayer is Answered – Differently than We Might Expect

We read:

“And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.” – 1 Nephi 7:18

Though Nephi had prayed for the strength to break the bands, this isn’t how God blessed Him. Nephi was willing to do the work, but instead, God did all of the work in this miracle.

Though large in stature, Nephi didn’t need to flex his muscles.

So – let’s get into this a little bit more…why? Why didn’t the Lord grant according to Nephi’s desire? Why didn’t the Lord infuse Nephi with extra strength? Why did Heavenly Father simply liberate Nephi instead of allow Nephi to work?

Of course, we don’t know the mind of God, so no one can say for sure, but we can think about the situation, and maybe learn something.

So far, in 7 chapters of the Book of Mormon, we have heard at least twice that Nephi was “large in stature.” (See 1 Nephi 2:16, and 1 Nephi 4:31.) Even though I sometimes think that this detail is kind of funny (in an “I Nephi, being swole” kind of way), I think that he was simply trying to help us to understand the situation. It’s easier to believe that he was able to physically accomplish some of the things he did despite his young age because he was large in stature.

For this reason, it would be natural for him to pray for more strength. In fact it had happened before:

“And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.” – 1 Nephi 4:31

This verse is very interesting, in fact. Nephi, when procuring the plates of brass Nephi had received strength of the Lord.

It fits that Nephi would pray to be strengthened to be able to break the cords that bound him. He knew that the Lord was capable of blessing him this way. He knew that the Lord could empower him, physically, to do very difficult physical feats.

I think that his brothers might have known it, too.

Now, this time, instead of Nephi getting pumped up with super-human strength, the bands simply loosen and fall right off of him.

Four – A Potential Lesson for Everyone

The bands that bound Nephi were loosed from off of Nephi’s hands and feet. I don’t know how this looked. And I don’t know how Laman and Lemuel responded to this miracle – other than with more anger. Maybe they saw that the bands simply fell off of Nephi. Then again, maybe the bands loosened just enough for Nephi to wriggle free – which would have made it look like Nephi escape on his own.

This miracle could be a potential lesson for Laman and Lemuel. By Nephi’s miraculous deliverance, Laman and Lemuel could have made the choice to see – that the Lord delivered him. That the Lord’s power was real and it was with Nephi. That they ought to get on the right side of the Lord.

We don’t need to know the details of how this miracle occurred because Nephi knows that he wasn’t blessed with strength. Nor did he come up with an ingenious plan to get free. The Lord freed him. This is a testimony building experience for Nephi – Heavenly Father has the power to deliver us.

Five – Dude in Distress…A Damsel Saves the Day

Laman and Lemuel, upon seeing Nephi freed, get angrier. So what do they do? Go after Nephi again.

But, enter in one of my favorite moments in the Book of Mormon:

“And it came to pass that they were angry with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.” – 1 Nephi 7:19

Again, the Lord doesn’t strengthen Nephi. Instead, it is a sweet young woman and her mother that are able to soften the hearts of Laman and Lemuel.

This young woman and her mother and one of the sons of Ishmael plead with Laman and Lemuel. Instead of forceful words – constrained by the Spirit, I imagine that they were more diplomatic to Laman and Lemuel. “Pleading” connotes a more diminuitive and less aggressive approach than Nephi’s.

I’m not suggesting that Nephi was too aggressive. I think that Nephi did exactly what he was supposed to do. Nephi was supposed to warn his brothers. He was supposed to lead in strength. And he was supposed to learn that there are ebbs and flows in life – yins and yangs – so to speak.

I have always figured that this woman was the woman that Nephi would eventually marry (that was probably a great “how we met” story…)*

Nephi: How we met…Well, we were in the wilderness, and my brothers had tied me up. I’m large in stature, so I thought that maybe I’d have the strength to break free, but…
Nephi’s Wife [interrupting]: I had to save him.
Nephi [Smiling, admiring his wife while also a bit sheepishly shrugging]: yeah. She did.

I’m so grateful that the Lord didn’t help Nephi in the way that Nephi asked. Instead, Nephi was able to learn two important lessons. 1) The Lord will Deliver 2) Sometimes Brute Strength Will not Work.

I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. I think that Nephi was doing the best he could. And then, the Lord taught him something new. I’m sure that this experience contributed to his own ‘arsenal’ of experiences that taught him how to solve problems in his life – sometimes with strength attacking the situation head-on. Sometimes relying only on God and His grace. Sometimes through a back door being held open by a strong but sweet woman.

Personal Application

For myself, I think that I can learn two major things from Nephi:

One – Pray with a Solution in Mind

One of Nephi’s strengths is that he is action oriented. When he prays, he prays with real intent – meaning that he intends to do whatever it is that God will have him do. And he’s not lazy about it either. In this situation, he comes up with a plan.

I don’t think that we can always have a solution in mind. In fact, we have already seen when Nephi went into Jerusalem only with the Spirit – not knowing beforehand the things which he would do. Though we may not always have a solution in mind, willingness is a key here! Either our solution will be the right one, or it will qualify us for a blessing we need from God, or, perhaps it will help us to find the right solution.

Two – Be Open for Another Solution

Even though Nephi has a solution in mind, he isn’t stubborn about it! The Lord gives him another solution, and Nephi gladly goes along with it.

I have a feeling that there are times when I get in my own way. Sometimes I have my mind so set on what I perceive to be a solution to my problems – that I can’t even see the problem with my solution! Nephi is a great example of having the right amount of willingness and tenacity with submission and humility.

***

* There is no evidence that the woman who “saved” Nephi became His wife. It is just my personal guess. I’m sure that there are other arguments that could be made that this was Laman’s, Lemuel’s, or Sam’s wife. I still like thinking that it was Nephi’s future wife, though…and I like my little made-up “how I met” vignette…so it stays for now. 🙂