Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:7-8

Well, if you read this blog, then you know it has been about a week or so since I’ve posted. We had a move, and it was hard to find time to actually blog. There are a lot of changes happening in my life, and they are good.

Interestingly enough, there are some changes that impact my scripture study. There have been times in my life when I can study for about 45-minutes to an hour. In fact, there have been many years when I was able to do so.

And then, there have been times when I can’t even imagine studying for that length of time! A few years ago, I started homeschooling my children. I love it, but it has very dramatically changed my own life and schedules. One of the big changes has been with my scripture study.

Interestingly enough, I have found that whatever time we can set aside for scripture study is exactly the effective dose we need. So – if we have 45 minutes or so to study, then that’s what we need. If we only have 20, then it is just as effective. The bottom line – being honest with yourself and following the Spirit.

Also – there are many things that we need to do for self care, and they are all important. For example, I need to work-out, pray, and shower, and whatnot. Those things aren’t going to be sacrificed so that I can study the scriptures for longer. Instead, I am trying to carefully determine what is needed in each of these parts of my life. And then, I know that the Lord helps me to make up the difference!

Anyway – the old constant – change – is alive and well in my life. I’m not sure how that will really effect the blog. But I’ll keep trucking along. Thanks for reading.

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You can read 1 Nephi 16:7-8 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi, his brothers, and Zoram take the daughters of Ishmael to wife.
  • Lehi had kept all of the commandments that had been given him. Nephi was also greatly blessed.

Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments

I wrote about this a little while ago here. It is a concept that is still really on my mind.

The commandments that Lehi had kept were both general commandments (covenants and the ten commandments and such) and also personal commandments – like bearing testimony to the Jews, fleeing Jerusalem, getting the plates, and getting Ishmael and his family.

Having his sons marry the daughters of Ishmael was another commandment that Lehi had kept.

Lehi, though still in the wilderness, could confidently go to the Lord for help and instruction – he was keeping the commandments. I imagine that there could have been room for temptation. So often, I know that I’m VERY MUCH prone to this, we keep a commandment and then expect relatively immediate good consequences.

For example, if I had been Lehi, I think I would have fled from Jerusalem and then figured that I’d reach the promised land within a few months. Hahaha! It took them eight years to finally arrive at the promised land!

I would have been tempted to look around me – after several months and think, Okay…any day now…I’d really like to be in that promised land…I’ve kept the commandments, so the Lord is bound to bless me…any day now…

Maybe I wouldn’t have been that bratty about it. But still – I know that I would have been relatively impatient. Or I would have expected the blessings to come from my sacrifices and obedience earlier.

But that’s not faith.

Instead, we can learn from Nephi’s example. He was confident in his righteousness. He kept the commandments. He recognized the blessings of the Lord – even if those blessings did not yet include arrival at the promised land. He didn’t doubt that blessing would come. He simply trusted in God – that each challenge was a step closer to the blessings that the Lord promised to fulfill.

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We each face challenges in our lives that will try our faith. These challenges come to us in many ways – but what they have in common: we have the choice to trust in God. We have the choice to keep His commandments. And we have the choice to notice God’s blessings in our lives.

Nephi stated:

“…And also, I, Nephi, had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly.” – 1 Nephi 16:7-8

Nephi recognized his blessings of the Lord while he still suffered afflictions in the wilderness. I suppose that recognizing these blessings will help us to navigate the wilderness of our lives better.

One last thing…maybe Nephi also had a better perspective than I do sometimes. I sit here and think Wow. Nephi was able to be grateful and praise God – even in the wilderness of his affliction. But maybe I’m forgetting something. Maybe Nephi didn’t see the wilderness of his affliction as a terrible thing. Maybe Nephi did a better job remembering that the wilderness of his affliction was the route to the promised land! Though it was wilderness and full of affliction, it was the path to blessings! It was a blessing! Without that wilderness, there would be no promised land.

Put another way – let’s imagine that the blessing, the promised land, is the top of the mountain.

Mountain Tops

The mountain tops are beautiful, and the Lord will direct us to them, but there is only one way to get there – up.

Often, we are eager to be the top of the mountain, then after the initial novelty of the trail to the top wears off, we start to curse the very trail that will take us to the mountain top!

Nephi understood that the wilderness of his affliction wasn’t some kind of personal vendetta that God had against him and his family. In fact, it was just the opposite. The wilderness of affliction was the path to the promised land. It was a blessing. This wilderness, these challenges, came as a direct consequence of keeping the commandments. And, even though they were difficult, they were propelling him forward – closer to the promised land.

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So – if we are keeping the commandments – and we are still in the wilderness of our own afflictions, we can take confidence. We are on the path that will lead to the promised land, to the mountain top view. We can be confident that the Lord will continue to guide us. We can be confident that He will strengthen us no matter what we face next. When we keep the commandments, we can be confident and happy – even long before we reach our final goal.

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Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments – 1 Nephi 5:20-22

Read today’s scripture block – 1 Nephi 5:20-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and Nephi had kept the commandments of the Lord so far.
  • They obtained the plates of brass – according to the wisdom of the Lord. These plates would aid them in traveling to the promised land.

Keeping the Commandments Gives us Confidence

I love the following scripture:

“And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.” – 1 Nephi 5:20

It’s so simple. Nephi takes the time to proclaim that he and his father had kept all of the commandments that the Lord had given them, personally.

So far, these commandments included:

  • Any of the already well-known commandments…Such as the ten commandments, giving sacrifices, tithes, and offerings, etc.
  • Preach repentance to the people of Jerusalem.
  • Flee from Jerusalem because the people wanted to kill them.
  • Follow the promptings of the Lord to get to a promised land.
  • Return to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass.
  • Study the scriptures engraven on the plates of brass.

Other than the first point – to keep all general commandments like the Sabbath day or giving offerings, the rest of the commandments that were kept by Nephi and Lehi were personal promptings or commandments.

I feel like I have overlooked the validity and importance of these commandments. Maybe because we don’t call them commandments. We call them “inspiration” or possibly “promptings.” We tend to downplay that these are personal commandments from God. 

Yet, the truth is, these promptings are personal commandments to us from God.

Nephi kept these commandments, and at this point is able to say that he had kept the commandments that the Lord had given them. He isn’t saying this to brag. It is a statement of truth, and in my opinion it gives him confidence.

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I think that in the past, I have underestimated the importance of personal commandments, revelations, or promptings. I have thought that these can be dismissed as optional. And, of course it is always our choice to do anything. We don’t have to keep the commandments, but we have to remember that if we don’t keep the commandments we are given, then we can’t receive the blessings associated with those commandments.

You can read more about Nephi and personal commandments here.

Nephi didn’t underestimate the importance of personal commandments. He took them seriously, and then, after the difficulty of doing as he had been commanded, he can evaluate and say, I kept the commandments.

It would feel really good.

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I think that these little checkpoints – in keeping the commandments – help to give us confidence to continue on. Think about it – this is 1 Nephi 5. Lehi, Nephi, and their family has a long way to go – many more years. They will need all of the strength and confidence that they can get in order to make it to the promised land.

We read:

“Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.” – 1 Nephi 5:22

Nephi is talking about carrying the plates of brass with them in the wilderness as they journey to the promised land. Notice that last phrase, “as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.”

After getting those plates, they knew that they had left Jerusalem for good. They won’t be going back. There isn’t a “plan b.” It’s promised land or bust. They didn’t have a set date for the promised land. They didn’t say, “If we don’t make it to the promised land in 459 days, then we’ll just turn back to Jerusalem.”

They were going to the promised land – even though they didn’t know where it was, they didn’t know how to get there, and they didn’t know how long it would take. There were no landmarks, no checkpoints. It was just a journey that they were on for as long as it took to arrive.

Because there were no “checkpoints” or landmarks, the Lord blessed them in other ways. The commandments he gave to Lehi and Nephi were such blessings. Being able to say “I’ve kept all of the commandments,” blessed them with the confidence to keep moving forward on an unknown path to an unknown promised land.

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I will give a personal example. In late 2004, I found myself at a major crossroads in my marriage. My ex-husband was not really…into marriage…let’s say. I had huge decisions to make.  I remember feeling a distinct prompting: that if I stayed married, then my eternal life and possibly the eternal lives of my daughters were at stake.

Even though I had the choice, I knew that I was prompted to get divorced. Perhaps Nephi would have called it a commandment. In any case, I chose to listen to the Lord. I divorced and started my life as a single-mom in her mid-twenties.

Divorcing was a difficult decision to make. I was living in my mom’s house with my two girls. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t even know where to start. I remember reading statistics about women, children, and divorce, and the statistics were against me. But, I also knew that this is what the Lord prompted me to do. I knew that he wasn’t setting me up for failure. I knew that he would help me to keep the commandments that He had given me. Because I moved forward in faith and obedience, I was blessed.

I found a job. I bought a car. We were getting on our feet.

Fast forward about a year and half. In mid-2006, I was on a run with my kids one day after work. They were riding their bikes, and I was running along and we were approaching our house.

The White House PA

The “White” House – our humble home in PA.

I can’t really describe the feeling that washed over me as we approached our home. Well, I know what it was – confidence. This was mine. It was my house. Made possible because I was keeping the commandments of the Lord.

My dad didn’t get me this house. My mom didn’t get it for me. I found my own job. Bought my own car. Signed my own contract for a cell phone. Saved my own money. Paid my own deposit. And paid rent each month on my own for this little one-bedroom house in Chester County, PA.

It was cold, drafty, there was a huge pile of nuts in one of the closets -obviously a squirrel’s stash…it was perfect for me and my two girls. We were safe and cozy. A neighbor had several cats. One of those cats adopted us and slept on our front porch most nights. He helped to keep the mice and squirrels away!

Of course I had help from my family. None of us can really do anything alone, but while running up this back country road, I felt the confidence that comes when we can say, “thus far I had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord hath commanded me.” I felt the confidence that comes when we see that the Lord will empower us and enable us to keep the commandments.

I still had a long road ahead of me then. I wouldn’t meet Homey for several more months. I still had to deal with child support issues, work, bosses, holidays, parent-teacher conferences, and everything else that a single, working mom must juggle in order to survive. Not only did I have a long road ahead of me, but I actually knew I that I had a long road ahead of me. I didn’t know how long it would be, but I knew I hadn’t quite yet reached my promised land.

But the Lord blessed me with the confidence that comes from keeping the commandments. And that confidence is what fuels us as we push forward on our own unknown paths toward our own unknown promised lands.

So – this is one of my favorite scriptures. It’s a good litmus test. How am I doing? The Lord doesn’t measure “how we’re doing” on our possessions, bank accounts, or callings. We shouldn’t either. The thing we each need to focus on is being able to be like Nephi and say that we have kept all of the commandments God has given us.

 

 

Small Victories Fuel Our Ability to Overcome Big Obstacles (1 Nephi 5:20)

So, Lehi and his family have left Jerusalem and are traveling to a promised land. They don’t know where this will be (we have the advantage of hindsight. The promised land is located in the Americas). They don’t know how long it will take to get there. (Again, we have the advantage of hindsight – it will take them 8 long years).

I’ve thought about this journey throughout my life and during my own proverbial journeys. It is a temptation to want to know what we will face in life. It’s a temptation to think I just wish I knew what was in store for me.

But it’s wisdom in God that we don’t know. Can you imagine if Nephi knew all of the obstacles he’d face? Can you imagine if God did tell him?

Imagine for a moment:
Look Nephi, here’s what’s going to happen. On the way to the promsied land, you’ll be tested. And I mean tested. First you’ll travel for a little while. Then I’ll command your dad to have you and your brothers go back and get the records of your fathers. (The Brass Plates – essentially, the Old Testament).

Getting the brass plates won’t be easy. You’ll lose all of your riches, your lives will be endangered, your brothers will beat you with a rod, you’ll have to kill a man, and then you’ll escape Jerusalem by the skin of your teeth.

When you get back to your dad, you’ll hang out for a bit, then go back to Jerusalem to get Ishmael’s family. It will be another hard journey in the wilderness, and on your way out of Jerusalem and back to your dad, your brothers will tie you up and try to kill you.

You will run out of food and break your bow. You will be married in the wilderness. You guys can’t build a fire – to maintain safety – so you’ll live on raw meat. You will wander through the middle eastern desert (do you know how hot it gets in Saudi Arabia?!) for eight years.

When you finally get to a small paradise that you will name “Bountiful,” I’ll command you to keep going. You’re not done. You will build a boat. You will make tools to build that boat. You will board it. Your brothers will tie you up again (they have this thing…), and you will all nearly die in the middle of a terrible tempest.

Then, you’ll finally make it to the promised land.

Imagine if Nephi knew all of that before he set a foot outside of his door? All of this adversity and obstacles for one main goal: the promised land? I think that if Nephi knew it all, he probably would have just…melted.

But Nephi didn’t. He faced obstacles like we all do – one at a time. And with each obstacle, he met the challenge with faith and overcame. After obtaining the Brass Plates, Nephi was able to say with confidence:

“And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.” – 1 Nephi 5:20

Now, the “big picture” obstacle is getting to the promised land. And here we are, only at the very beginning of the journey. Nephi has already gone through a couple of “sub-obstacles” in this bigger obstacle of getting to the promised land.

At this point, Nephi and his father, had met every adveristy with faith. They prevailed. And with this success came confidence. This confidence would give them the courage and power they would need for the next, bigger obstacle they would face on this arduous journey.

We can learn from this. We need to celebrate the smaller milestones. We need to take time to say, “I’ve kept all of the commandments of God.” This will help us to develop confidence – both in ourselves and in God – which is exactly what we’ll need for the next obstacle.

And this is a pattern that will be repeated until we are all “safely dead.”

Joy in our Fruit (Jacob 5:71)

In Jacob 5, we read of the Allegory of the Olive Tree. It is a comparison between the scattering and gathering of Israel and an olive vineyard. I won’t go into the details of this story here. You can read it if you would like: Jacob 5.

This verse stood out to me today:

“And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.” – Jacob 7:71

When we labor with our might, we will have joy in the fruit that we lay up.

This, I believe, is a true principle – not only when it comes to serving other people, as the laboreres int he vineyard do, but it is a true principle regarding nearly anything we create. If we labor with our might in our profession, we will have joy in the fruit of that work. We can exchange this with other ways we labor, too – our children, our callings, our time, talents, gifts, or blessings.

Of course, this has to be done for good. I don’t know that we’ll find much joy in our labor if we are laboring in sin. But when we consecrate our labor to the Lord and building His Kingdom, then we have joy in our creations and successes.