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.

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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!

***

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!

It Is By The Lord That We Are Led – 1 Nephi 17:10-16

You can read 1 Nephi 17:10-16 here.

Context and General Information

  • The Lord told Nephi where to go find ore to make tools.
  • Nephi made a bellows out of the skin of beasts to blow the fire. Then, he smote two stones together to make fire.
  • Up to this point, Nephi hadn’t made many fires on the journey in the wilderness. The Lord instructed them not to and made other arrangements for them. He made their food become “sweet” so they didn’t need to cook it.
  • The Lord also promised to be their light in the wilderness. He prepared the way for them. If they kept His commandments, then they would be led toward a promised land. Also, after arriving at the promised land, they would know that it was the Lord that delivered them from destruction. And that He is God.
  • So – Nephi strived to keep the commandments and motivated his brothers to do the same.
  • And Nephi made tools out of the ore which he melted out of the rock.

It Is by the Lord that We Are Led

We often say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. And here, we see it again. Even though the Lord works in mysterious ways, the purpose isn’t so mysterious.

So – earlier in chapter 17, Nephi asked the Lord:

” And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” –1 Nephi 17:9

And then we read:

“And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.” – 1 Nephi 17:10

Once Nephi knows where to find the ore, he makes a bellows, and then makes a fire. And then Nephi lets us in on this fact about their journey – a fact that he had hinted at earlier in the chapter:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:12

The Lord commanded them not to make much fire. And if we think back, the only times I guess that they made fire would be the times when they were offering sacrifices of burnt offerings to Him. (See 1 Nephi 2:7,1 Nephi 5:9, 1 Nephi 7:22.)

I am so familiar with the story of Nephi’s journey to the promised land, that I haven’t put much thought into this idea. I’ve always known that the Lord commanded Lehi’s family not to make many fires. And that He would make their meat “sweet” to them – as if it had been cooked. Okay. That’s fine with me. I accept it. If the Lord can cause Manna to come down to the children of Israel while in the wilderness, why wouldn’t he be able to “cook” the food for Lehi and his family?

I’ve never had a problem with this detail. I’ve never had a question about it. I’ve never really put much thought into it.

But maybe it’s good to right now…because I don’t think that the only reason the Lord did this for them is the same as what I assumed in the past.

In the past, I kind of thought that the reason the Lord had them make few fires was for their safety. (And I still think that this was a reason). Hugh Nibley explored this concept in one of his writings. (You can read it here).His ideas have permeated our Latter-day Saint Culture – for good reason, too. I think that he is partially right.

If Nephi and his family were burning fires in the Arabian Peninsula, they would have attracted a lot of attention. They would have put themselves into a bit of danger. Remember, this is a harsh land. Food isn’t easy to come by. They would have been easy targets for marauders and others that might have tried to attack them. The Lord didn’t want Nephi and his family to fail on their journey to the promised land, so He gave them a commandment that would protect them. After arriving to the Promised land, this would not be a commandment they had to keep. It was just a temporary one.

But here’s a question. God could perform miracles. God gave them a Liahona. God taught Nephi how to make a boat! God caused manna to come down for the children of Israel. Why did God have them not make fires? Why didn’t he just let them make fires and then give them a miracle of protection?

Well, the Lord answers that Himself in the Book of Mormon. We read:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:12-14

The Lord knew that the commandment He gave them – not to build many fires – would result in a few problems, so he also posed solutions.
Problems and Solutions
One – How to Cook Food Without Fire? The Lord would make their food become “sweet,” so they didn’t need to cook it.
Two – Who Will Be their Light in the Wilderness – The Lord would be their light. He would prepare the way for them. We don’t have more details on this, but just imagine it. The night would be pretty dark without any fires. And night can come pretty early certain times of the year! Right now, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sunset is at 6:14 PM. Early nights. Not much traveling when the days get short! (Of course, there was probably substantial traveling during the cooler times of the year – the problem, sunset comes earlier!)…So even though we don’t have more detail on how the Lord was their light in the wilderness, we know that He was. Metaphorically, and I think probably also literally.

Addressing these problems and solutions doesn’t really address why the Lord did what He did. And we do postulate. We say, well, it kept them safe from raiding parties. But this isn’t what the reason that the Lord gave. The Lord tells us why:

“…and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:13-14

The Lord understands every law of nature, physics, chemistry, biology. He can do what He wants because He understands the workings of this world He created. And yes, He does support us. He will be our light in the wilderness. He will provide for us. But he doesn’t always make things easy for us just because. He usually provides for us in a way that still tries our faith so we can learn the exact thing He was trying to teach Nephi – that it was the Lord God, and ONLY HIM that delivered us.

Imagine for a moment if Nephi and his family did have fire. If they traveled that dangerous Arabian Peninsula with light and a means to cook their meat. And imagine if the Lord had performed another miracle that gave them safety despite the fires that they built.

I think that it would easy for them to remain ignorant. They didn’t know the land. They were from Jerusalem. Mecca is 1,000 miles from Jerusalem This is a 15 hour drive. To Yemen, close to where Lehi’s family might have changed directions (perhaps Nehor) – it is a 1,500 mile journey. And then from the possible location of Nehor to the possible location of Bountiful is about 950 miles or so. (Depending on the route they took, of course).

I know that all of this is speculative. But follow me for a second. They were more than a thousand miles away from their home! I haven’t really taken the time to appreciate this fact. They didn’t know the area. They didn’t truly understand the danger. And if Heavenly Father had allowed them to cook their food while performing a miracle of keeping them safe then they might not have understood the danger they were in. Maybe they would have arrived to the Promised Land and naively thought that they did it themselves even though God was protecting them. They could have naively thought that they directed their own path, found and cooked their own food, and that they didn’t really need the Lord to deliver them. They never would have been aware of the danger.

It seems like they still weren’t super aware of the danger (if they are, then Nephi doesn’t share it in the record that we have).

So the Lord, through the commandment He gave (not to have fires) and the miracles He performed (cooking their food and being a light in the desert) Both kept them safe and gave them an experience that kept them reliant on Him and strengthened their testimony in Him.

Nephi states:

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.” – 1 Nephi 17:15

Because of this commandment, challenge, and miracle – Nephi was motivated to strive to keep the commandments of God. He also was able to convince his brothers to do the same. They needed God. They needed God’s miracles. So they needed to obey.

***

Wrapping this up.

I think that the Lord does the same things in our lives. He gives us commandments that seem strange – maybe counterintuitive. He gives us commandments that seem harder than another more obvious option. And, during the trial, when we keep His commandments, we are blessed, but we are also still challenged. They often require faith.

I mean, think about Nephi and his family. I assume it was an act of faith to bite into a raw steak. I think that his family probably looked forward to cooking their food later on. Think about the children of Israel. Every night, they went to sleep wondering, would it still rain Manna tomorrow?

Even when we’re keeping the commandments, and we are being blessed, faith is required during the trial!

I have experienced this in my own life, and this scripture actually gives me great comfort. I have tried to follow the commandments I have received from God (the promptings, the impressions, etc), even when it seems counterintuitive. Even when, at times, I’ve been criticized by others.

Recently, I had this experience, defending why I was making certain decisions. In explaining this, I realized, If I really want to succeed, then I must do this the Lord’s way. What good is it to achieve my goal if at the end, I lose my faith in God. What good is it to achieve my goal if I then am filled with naivete and pride – thinking that I did this myself? If I do this the Lord’s way, then not only will I achieve my goal, but I will do it in a way that my soul stays intact.

So – I think that this is why the Lord commanded Nephi and his family not to make fire. What good would it have been if they made it to the promised land, but forgot God in the process? By experiencing this commandment, the trial that it gave them, and the miracle that ensued because of their faith, Nephi and his family were able to make it to the promised land safely, and also knowing that God led them safely to deliverance.

Bountiful – 1 Nephi 17:5-9

You can read 1 Nephi 17:5-8 here.

Context and General Information

  • After traveling in the desert wilderness, Nephi and his family arrived at a land that they called Bountiful. It had fruit and honey. It was also next to a see that they called “Irreantum,” meaning “many waters.”
  • They pitched their tents near the seashore. Despite their many afflictions, when they arrived at the seashore, they rejoiced. They named the place Bountiful because of its many fruits. They were happy to reach this point.
  • After being in the land of Bountiful for many days, the Lord told Nephi to go up to the mountain. Nephi obeyed and prayed to the Lord in the mountain.
  • The Lord commanded Nephi to construct a ship (the Lord would show him how to do it), so that they could cross the sea.
  • Nephi’s immediate response was one of humility – he asked the Lord where to find ore so that he could make the tools he would need to make the ship.

Bountiful

First of all, I don’t want to take much time writing about it, but there is a really interesting article written by Warren P. Aston and published by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies here. This article talks about the probable location of Bountiful (in modern-day Yemen). There are also many pictures of the landscape there. This spot – Bountiful – is an anomaly on the Arabian Peninsula. It is no question that the Lord was directing Lehi and his family.

If you choose to read the article, you will find that this part of Yemen has a lot of rain from monsoons. This fresh water supports many trees. There is an abundance of sycamore fig, tamarind, and date palm trees in the area. There is also a mountain nearby. And there are cliffs (the ones that Laman and Lemuel probably wanted to push Nephi off of!)

There were also big trees there – capable of being used to build a ship.

Anyway – I just found this article interesting, and it helps to visualize the landscape where Nephi and his family found themselves.

There is also a great blog here with a lot of pictures of the area. I wish I had pictures, but I don’t really want to violate someone else’s copyright on their own private pictures, so you can get a nice sense of the area if you look at their blog post.

***

For several years I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Though it isn’t the Arabian Peninsula, Arizona is most definitely the desert. When I think of Nephi and his family traveling through the “wilderness,” I try to visualize them journeying through a landscape similar to that of Arizona and southeastern California (the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, respectively).

I lived in Arizona – with irrigation, a pool and air conditioning! And yet, I get it – it’s HOT! Haha! Sometimes hot doesn’t even begin to describe Arizona in the summer. (and late spring and early fall!). In fact, I moved away from Arizona three years ago, and I haven’t felt hot since!

But the heat is consuming. I remember one of my first experiences in the Arizona sun and heat. I had just moved there from Pennsylvania. It was June, actually. And I left my sneakers in the car. No big deal.

Hahahaha!

I went to get my sneakers out of the car, and something wasn’t right. They were funny. The glue in the sneakers had melted! My sneakers were falling apart! I hadn’t even imagined such a problem. I learned then never to leave anything in the car. It will melt! The heat and sun would warp CDs, melt shoes, and one of my friends even baked a batch of cookies in her car. (She did it on purpose. She put a cookie sheet with 12 blobs of cookie dough on her dashboard during church. Afterwards – fresh, warm, baked cookies! A perk of being in AZ in the summer, I guess!

But I imagine this heat, and then I try to imagine being in Nephi’s group – traveling in the desert heat of the Arabian Peninsula.

You’ve heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s something that happens in the winter – where you feel a bit depressed because you haven’t seen the sun in so long. Well, there is another variation of that in AZ. We got 330+ days of sun in AZ. You never long for the sun.

But in September, when it is still over 100º and you are just sick of the heat, you get a little angry. I’m talking a bit of low-level rage. It’s just there.

Or, in July, when you turn on the news and see the forecast, (This actually happened to me one day) and it says that the high is 117º you get angry. Not low level-rage, but legit crazy! This is when I realized why the Middle East is such a hornet’s nest – it’s TOO HOT!!! The heat has gotten to their heads and made them angry. Let’s stop warring and just send over A.C.s for everyone!!!!! (I’m not trying to make light…I’m just saying – that it gets sooooo hot.)

And THIS is what Nephi and his family were journeying through.

Thankfully, AZ winters are great. Maybe it took Lehi and his family so long to venture through the wilderness because of the intense heat of summer. Maybe they spent more of their time traveling during the winter? Who knows. All I know is, based on my time in AZ (which I actually truly loved it there), I can’t imagine the affliction that Nephi and his family faced. I can’t imagine having children there. I can’t imagine being in that intense sun, day in day out – only tents as shelter.

I can’t imagine the thirst.

And after all of this traveling, they make it to a land – filled with fresh water!, fruit, honeybees, trees (shade!!!!! Quick side note – in AZ, when you are looking for a parking spot, you don’t pay much attention to the first few rows of parking spots. Instead, everyone is vying for the spot that is under a tree. I never loved shade more than I did when I was in AZ).

I imagine that if I was in Nephi’s family, and I had been traveling through the wilderness, then made it to Bountiful, I imagine that I’d figure that Bountiful was the promised land!

I don’t know their situation. Maybe the Liahona made it clear that Bountiful was not their promised land. Maybe they understood that Bountiful was a respite before one last push – another “desert” experience of another type (the ocean is a desert with its life underground and the perfect disguise above…). I’m not sure if they knew this or not.

But one day, Nephi receives the command to get up the mountain, and there the Lord tells him this.

” And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.” – 1 Nephi 17:8

Wow.

Nephi’s response:

“And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” – 1 Nephi 17:9

This response garners a lot of admiration for Nephi. Often, I hear people say (and I’ve said it myself) – Wow! Nephi didn’t know how to build a boat, but he doesn’t even say that! He just asks, “Where can I get the ore to make the tools.” He is so obedient!

And yes, he is so obedient. He doesn’t murmur that he doesn’t have the experience building ships.

However, there is another reason why I admire Nephi by this response. I think that I might have said, “Build a ship?! But look at where we are! Isn’t this the promised land?!?!?! It’s Bountiful! We’re still going?!?!?! We’ve been at this eight years! Bountiful is good enough for me!”

***

Of course Nephi is wiser and more faithful than I am. And I’m so grateful for his example. Because of this experience that he has shared with us through the Book of Mormon, I’ve been blessed when I’ve reached “Bountiful” points in my life – points that were a blessing and respite, but they weren’t the end of the journey.

Bountiful was bountiful, but it was not the promised land.

***

I think that we all have these “Bountiful” experiences in our lives.

We travel and wade through “much affliction” during the wilderness of our lives. We may not be perfect. (We AREN’T perfect), but we are trying our best. We endure.

And then, we make it! We make it to the land of Bountiful…except it looks an awful lot like “the Promised land.” We have rest. We have ample blessings that we were missing out on for so long. We have “fruit, honey, and shade.”

And while we revel in these blessings, we get a message from the Lord, “time to prepare to move on….” We find that Bountiful isn’t our promised land, but we have to build a ship and then do the impossible – cross the sea!

The impossible after what already seemed impossible (going through that desert)!

The trial isn’t over.

We can learn from Nephi because his story is done, and hindsight is 20/20. Though we don’t have hindsight on our own trials, we do have it on his. We know that yes, Nephi will construct a ship. And yes, it will sail across the ocean. Yes, he will make it to the promised land. And that promised land will be exponentially more bountiful than Bountiful.

We can then apply the hindsight of Nephi’s experience to our own lives. When we reach the “bountiful” of our lives, we can rejoice in the blessings of Bountiful while we gear up for the next phase of trial.

Instead of focusing on that “deep sea” we face, we can focus on what comes after the sea – the promised land.

With this, when we hear the command of the Lord, to build a ship so we can cross the deep waters, we won’t get upset. We won’t plead with the Lord to stay in Bountiful. We, instead, will be like Nephi and ask where we can go to find the ore to make the tools.

We will trust God, implicitly. Understanding that His promises are sure, and if Bountiful is good, then imagine how good the promised land will be!!!!!!

Anger, Lies, and Persuasion – 1 Nephi 16:36-39

You can read 1 Nephi 16:36-39 here.

Context and General Information

  • Everyone starts murmuring against Lehi and Nephi. They say that they want to go back to Jerusalem.
  • Laman and Lemuel use this as an opportunity to make a wicked suggestion: to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Laman and Lemuel manipulate the truth and lie in order to persuade the others to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Thankfully the Lord steps in. He spoke to them and chastised them. They turned away their anger, repented of their sins, and then were once again blessed with food so that they did not perish.

Persuasion and Lies

The verses included in these verses have always been interesting to me. First of all, I’m interested in the idea of persuasion. I feel like it often has a negative connotation, but really it is neither positive or negative. It’s just a thing.

In the dictionary, we learn the real definition of persuade:

Persuade
1: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action
2 : to plead with : URGE – Merriam Webster

Persuasion is the simple act of trying to move another person. When we understand that this is the case, then we will also find that often people have many motives of persuasion and different ways to persuade others. These aren’t always good! This is where the bad stuff may come in.

We are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants that power or influence over others ought NOT to be maintained – by force. Instead of unrighteous dominion, Priesthood leaders (and probably other leaders, too), should lead others through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, etc.

Persuading others – to believe in the Savior Jesus Christ, to do good – is okay!

NOW.

We should look at it from the other side, too. We have to remember that there are forces at play trying to persuade us to do one thing or another. Yes, we have the prophets (ancient and modern) who are persuading us to come closer to Christ. We have good friends, teachers, leaders, and family members who are doing the same. There are good people around us who are persuading us to be better people because they love us and they want us to be happy.

Then, there are people who are trying to persuade us for other reasons. They want power, they are selfishly motivated. They don’t care about us – other than they need us for some reason or another. They need our money. They need our support. But they don’t intend to lift us up or see us happy!

We are surrounded by persuading voices. It is easy to think of politicians. But also commercials, sociopaths, internet trolls. Whatever.

In 1 Nephi, we read how Laman and Lemuel tried to persuade their brethren:

“And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.

38 Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:37-38

I think that if we study this experience, we can learn how not to be persuaded by little jerks like Laman and Lemuel.

Heart Conditions

Remember what we read in the verse before:

“And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 16:36

Notice the condition of the hearts of the brethren of Nephi. They were upset. They were murmuring. Because of their anger, the Spirit of the Lord wasn’t with them anymore. They were so irrational that they expressed the desire to return back to Jerusalem – despite the extreme hardships they endured to get to the point they were at!

The angered state is not a good state to be able to think spiritually or rationally, so if we are worked up into an anger, we are very easily persuaded by those who don’t have our best interest in mind. We are already stirred up. We aren’t seeing clearly. We need to fight to stay in a positive state – one that is open to the truth and the Spirit of the Lord.

This is really resonating with me right now. We are surrounded by this. There are news agencies and politicians banking on us losing our wits and then buying into anything they say by getting us angry.

Laman and Lemuel were perceptive enough to see their chance. Everyone was angry enough for them to voice their murderous idea – to kill Lehi (their father!) and Nephi (their Brother!)

Lies!

Laman and Lemuel don’t just stop there – with this idea to kill Lehi and Nephi. Instead, they give their reasons, which are laced with lies.

If the sons of Ishmael and others who were listening to this argument had their wits about them, I think that they would have seen the incredible irony in what Laman and Lemuel were saying versus the actual truth.

What Laman and Lemuel Said – Versus the Actual Truth

  1. Laman and Lemuel:“…Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.”

    Actual Truth – Nephi didn’t seek to be a ruler or a teacher over his brothers. Nephi is loyal to God and willing to do what God asks Him. In fact, Laman and Lemuel knew exactly why Nephi was chosen to lead them. The angel told them this as Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi and Sam with a rod:

    “…Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?…” – 1 Nephi 3:29

    Laman and Lemuel are manipulating the truth to engender more anger and persuade the others to go along with their evil plan. Yes, it is true that Nephi has become a sort of leader over them. But it isn’t because he sought power over them. And they know it. They know that their own iniquities have disqualified them from being leaders themselves.

  2. Laman and Lemuel:“…Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness…”

    Actual Truth: – Nephi did see angels! They know this! They were there when an angel ministered to him! And this wasn’t the only time. An angel taught him the meaning of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. His brothers were in Lehi’s tent arguing. Nephi wasn’t there! And when Nephi returned, he was able to teach his brother the meaning of Lehi’s words. Laman and Lemuel once again are twisting the truth. They know that Nephi has borne testimony to them of these experiences.

    Not only that, but it wasn’t Nephi’s idea to go into the wilderness. It was Lehi who had received the commandment to go to the wilderness, and many people – other than Lehi – had also received a witness of this command.

  3. Laman and Lemuel:“… But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes,…”

    Actual Truth: This is almost getting comical. Laman and Lemuel are lying in the very moment! They are working cunning arts – taking advantage of people’s emotions! They are deceiving the eyes of the rest of the people in their party.

    If the others weren’t so blinded by their own murmuring, then one of them might have had the wits to say, “Wait a minute…aren’t you lying right now?! Didn’t you also see an angel?! Why are you trying to use your ‘cunning arts’ to deceive us and have us kill them?!

    Laman and Lemuel are guilty of exactly what they leverage against Nephi. It’s kind of disgusting. (And it happens all the time still…I won’t go into examples, but I’m sure you can think of some).

  4. Laman and Lemuel:“…and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. …”

    Actual Truth: THIS IS WHAT LAMAN AND LEMUEL WANT TO DO! They want to become the rulers and leaders over the people so they can do with them according to their will and pleasure. They pretend like getting rid of Nephi and Lehi will grant them “freedom.” Instead, and everyone there should know this by now killing Nephi will ensure their death.

    They are in the wilderness. They are somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. It isn’t a particularly hospitable climate. They aren’t a stone’s throw from Jerusalem. They have been traveling months, if not years by now.

    They have already nearly died from starvation in the wilderness, and they were only sustained by Nephi’s faith and wits – to make a bow and arrow and go hunt for food.

    Laman and Lemuel aren’t interested in the truth, though. They are interested in something else. They want their father and their brother eliminated so that they can have power. They can’t go out and say this, though. Instead, they decide to appeal to the anger of the people who are in distress.

    It’s all completely insane.

More Anger

We read:

“…And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:38

So – the sons of Ishmael (and others) were angry. Laman and Lemuel used this anger to persuade them of their evil idea. Laman and Lemuel were, unfortunately, effective. The people became angrier.

This is where we have to be careful. In their anger, which was based on a series of fallacies, they had decided that murder would be a good idea. They had been persuaded to break a pretty major commandment!

What Can We Learn from This?

Overall, the thought I keep having is that we need to do everything we can to be worthy of the Spirit. We need to do what we can not to be blinded by the deception of the Devil.

Marion G. Romney stated:

“We know that there is available to each of us the gift of the Holy Ghost—the power of revelation which embraces the gift of discernment by which we may unerringly detect the devil and the counterfeits he is so successfully foisting upon this gullible generation.” – Marion G. Romney

If we stay close to the Spirit, then we will not succumb to the Devil or those who have evil motives.

***

Laman, Lemuel, and the rest are extremely blessed. The Lord himself stopped this. He spoke to the entire party, chastised them – and they repented. If Laman and Lemuel had been able to go with their plan, then not only would Lehi and Nephi have died, but the rest of them would have, too.

They were dependent on the Lord. They didn’t even know where to go to find food – would they really have been able to make it back to Jerusalem. Once again, the righteousness of Nephi saves this group as they journey to the promised land.

And we can learn – we can learn not to let ourselves be deceived. We can do this by keeping our emotions in check – not allowing ourselves to get angry. We can do this by staying close to the Spirit so that we have the Spirit of discernment and charity.

The Liahona – Part 2 – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood and sticks and then went to his father for direction, Lehi went to the Lord. The Lord chastised Lehi for murmuring and complaining against him. Lehi was extremely sorrowful.
  • The Lord told Lehi to look at the ball of curious workmanship (the Liahona) that he had provided them. When Lehi looked at it, he read a message that was written on it. He feared and trembled because of what it said – as did Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael and the wives.
  • Nephi beheld that the Liahona worked according to faith, diligence, and heeding the directions that it gave.
  • There was a new writing on the Liahona – it was plain to read and gave them understanding concerning God’s ways. The message written on the Liahona changed from time to time, and it likewise worked according to their faith, diligence, and heed.
  • By small and simple means the Lord can bring about great things.

The Liahona – How It Works

In the previous post, we learned that God communicated with Lehi and his family through the Liahona. But it didn’t happen magically. There was work that Lehi and his family needed to do in order to have the Liahona take any kind of effect in their lives.

In the previous post, we also learned that we have modern-day examples of Liahonas in our lives – the scriptures and Priesthood blessings. Like the Liahona, they aren’t magic, but they require work on our part in order for them to be effective.

Nephi explained:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.” – 1 Nephi 16:28

The Liahona worked only according to faith, diligence, and the heed that they gave to it.

Faith

First of all, the Liahona only worked according to the faith of Lehi and his family. Alma explains this really well:

“And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.” – Alma 37:40

Notice how Alma explains that the Liahona worked according to their faith in God. They didn’t have faith in the Liahona. They didn’t start worshipping the Liahona. They trusted God. They trusted that God would give them the right direction to go through the Liahona.

What stands out to me is this – in our own lives, if we want to have direction, then we also need to have faith. Faith doesn’t mean simply that God will let us have whatever we think we want. Faith means that we trust His direction, even if we are being pointed in a way that doesn’t seem to be where we want to go.

I’ll give a more concrete example. Years ago, I applied for a dumb job at a health club. I was a young mom with two kids. This was during my first marriage. My (ex)husband worked during the days, and this job would be in the early evening. I was hoping to get this job so that I could have a free membership to the health club – and then hopefully get in shape, too.

I went and filled out an application, etc. I prayed, and I thought to myself, Yes, I have faith that I can get this job! For a moment, I thought that’s what was required. I knew that God was capable of helping me get this job. I knew that He was powerful. I had faith.

But, as this thought process continued, I was corrected. Faith isn’t merely thinking that God is able. Faith means that we will accept His will for us – that we trust Him even if it isn’t what we think we want. Faith meant that I would be grateful and happy for His guidance and help in my life, even if I didn’t get that job at the Health Club.

Well, you might be able to guess it. I did NOT get the job. But I felt comforted. I had faith. I knew that I did my best, that I prayed, and that I trusted God. In this case, I was able to see the blessing of my faith and God’s “no” answer to my prayers. A few weeks later, one of my friends told me about how she would work at another health club – once a week – for a few hours in the late evening after it closed. She was moving, and there would be an opening. I told her I was interested.

I didn’t have to do anything – no paperwork, no application. I was chosen! This “job” didn’t pay money – instead it was a barter – my family and I had a free membership to the health club, and I went in on Wednesday nights at 10:30 PM to help with some basic cleaning. Usually, we worked until about 1:30 AM. It was actually a lot of fun, too. This solution was better than my solution.

Trusting in the Lord worked. I couldn’t see the solution. I couldn’t see the blessing. But because of faith in the Lord -even when things didn’t originally work out – I was able to experience more of what I wanted with the blessing He had in store.

***

I figure that there were times when the spindles of the Liahona pointed Lehi and his family in a direction that may have had them scratching their collective head. They had to trust God. They had to have faith in God.  And the same for us – we must have faith in God, not the scriptures; not the priesthood; not our patriarchal blessing – we must have faith in the God who gave us these things.

Diligence

Okay. Dictionary time…

Diligence: Careful or persistent work or effort.

Now, the thought that keeps coming to me is a possible relationship between diligence and the concept of our progress coming line upon line, precept upon precept. I hope I can explain this in a way that makes sense.

We are taught, over and over again, that we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. In 2 Nephi, we read:

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” – 2 Nephi 28:30

Heavenly Father directs us:

  • Line upon line
  • precept upon precept
  • here a little
  • there a little

His direction does not come all at once. This is why we need to pray always. It isn’t a mistake or problem on our part if we pray, pray, and pray again for something. I would guess that Lehi daily prayed that his family would make it to the promised land. This was not out of faithlessness.

He had a huge task ahead of him – a task that took 8 years to complete. It would have been insane for Heavenly Father to give Lehi every direction of this journey in one single moment at the beginning of their trip. Imagine that! If Heavenly Father gave all of His direction in one instance – all of the direction that would take 8 years to complete – it would have been overwhelming, and I believe that Lehi would have failed.

Instead, Lehi and his family get their guidance piecemeal. So, they must be diligent. They complete step one, and then they need to go back to the Lord, in humble prayer, in order to receive step two.

It is the same in our lives. We need to pray always, we need to be diligent in our obedience and in our seeking, in order to receive the direction we want and need in our lives. We need to read the scriptures every day. The Lord won’t give us the answers to the problems of our lives in one singular event, and thank goodness. If He did, I think that it would lead to a sure failure.

Instead, we receive direction a bit at a time.

Here’s another analogy. A few years ago, I was taking my brother to the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia. My brother lived in Pennsylvania, so I can’t say that I knew the way to go. My brother plugged in the address to Elijay, Georgia – where we would stay before he started the hike. And you know how it goes…after he put in the address, his phone quickly announced every single step that we would take in less than a minute. The directions disappeared, and we had every step, every turn, every merge, every intersection, every highway committed to memory.

hahahah! Of course that’s not how it happened. Instead, his phone said, “Turn right on Glenside Rd.” (which is the first road out of our neighborhood, so fairly obvious and familiar with us). A minute later we did turn right onto Glenside. We stayed on Glenside, and then the GPS on the phone warned, “In .4 miles, turn left onto PA State Route 322.” And then, wouldn’t you know, in .4 miles, we turned left. This continued for the next 12 hours until we “arrived at our final destination.”

We needed to diligently listen to the advice given on the GPS. If we had turned it off after the first or second step – complaining, Why didn’t our GPS get us to our destination?! It would have been silly! It was getting us there – step by step, line upon line. The Lord works in a similar way.

Heed

Finally, Nephi explains that they gave heed to what the Liahona directed them to do. This critical step keeps standing out to me.

So often in life, I’m guilty of not giving heed. I will read the scriptures, I’ll know what I need to do, I’ll even intend to do it, and then – for some reason (usually distraction), I don’t get around to doing it.

The Liahona could have given the most specific and beautiful instructions to the promised land and still have been completely pointless – if Lehi hadn’t followed the instructions.

To go with the analogy above – if I heeded some of the instructions on my route from PA to Ellijay, GA but not others, then I wouldn’t have made it to my destination. I had to follow the instructions. I had to complete each step.

Heed is a demonstration of our faith. Do we believe the pointers on the Liahona, then we will follow them. Do we believe what we learn in the scriptures? Then we follow them. Do we really believe what God has instructed us in Priesthood blessings? Then we will do what we have been instructed to do.

***

I say this, and I understand how hard it can be. I have a personality (annoying at times) that doesn’t particularly like being told what to do. It is kind of strange. I remember receiving a blessing and in it I was praised for keeping a journal. I was also advised to continue doing so. And I didn’t write in my journal again for months. I didn’t doubt the direction. In fact, I kept intending to do it. I kind of thought It was a jinx! If it hadn’t been mentioned in my blessing, I would have kept on doing it!

Of course, it wasn’t God’s fault that I stopped writing in my journal. It was my fault. I sought direction. Heavenly Father gave me direction. And yet, I didn’t give heed. Thankfully, Heavenly Father is a patient and loving God. He understands each of us. He helps us to “recalibrate” and “recalculate” our path when we diverge from the directions He has given us.

But it is so much easier to simply give heed from the beginning.

I suppose that this is standing out to me because it is what I find most difficult. Interestingly enough, when I discover something on my own – during scripture study, prayer, or through a spiritual prompting – I usually have an easier time doing it. Then, when I receive it through a directive, it feels a little bit stifling and I kind of clam up and have a much harder time doing what I must do. It feels like a Herculean task – even if it is something I was already doing.

The Lord is trying to teach me to keep heeding Him. I can trust Him. I also don’t need to feel that this is some kind of stifling suppression of my agency and identity. Instead, I can trust that above all He knows me, and if I trust Him, if I do what He prompts, then I will find fulfillment that goes above and beyond what I would have done for myself.

***

Time to wrap this up.

I’m grateful for the example of the Liahona in the Book of Mormon. Even though I don’t have some cool, newfangled ball of curious workmanship, I do have other “instruments” in my life that can act as a Liahona. We have the scriptures, we have Priesthood Blessings. I have the gift of the Holy Ghost and access to promptings and direction. And if we apply those ways that caused Lehi’s Liahona to work into our own lives, then our own personal “liahonas” will also give us direction and comfort.

The Liahona – Part One – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood and sticks and then went to his father for direction, Lehi went to the Lord. The Lord chastised Lehi for murmuring and complaining against him. Lehi was extremely sorrowful.
  • The Lord told Lehi to look at the ball of curious workmanship (the Liahona) that he had provided them. When Lehi looked at it, he read a message that was written on it. He feared and trembled because of what it said – as did Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael and the wives.
  • Nephi beheld that the Liahona worked according to faith, diligence, and heeding the directions that it gave.
  • There was a new writing on the Liahona – it was plain to read and gave them understanding concerning God’s ways. The message written on the Liahona changed from time to time, and it likewise worked according to their faith, diligence, and heed.
  • By small and simple means the Lord can bring about great things.

The Ball of Curious Workmanship

There is so much that can be studied from this text. We can learn about faith and loyalty from Nephi. We can learn about the real temptations that face all of us – to murmur and complain during trials – from Lehi. We can learn about chastisement and trial. But today, I think that I would like to focus on that little “ball of curious workmanship” – the Liahona.

God Communicated with Lehi and His Family Through the Liahona

After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of sticks, he went to his father to ask where he should hunt for food. Lehi then went to the Lord.

Lehi had been murmuring. I can’t imagine the suffering and trial that Lehi must have been going through to push him to this edge. We can learn from him. We must trust in the Lord. Lehi was chastised most likely because of his lack of trust in God’s words – despite the witnesses and miracles he had experienced. After being chastised, the Lord commanded:

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.” – 1 Nephi 16:26

Unfortunately, the message that Lehi read on the ball was one that caused him to “fear and tremble exceedingly.” But we see here that the Lord communicates with them through the Liahona.

It’s interesting. The Lord had just been communicating with Lehi – without the Liahona. And then he tells Lehi to read what is written on the Liahona. It seems that others saw what was written on it, too. It was a message for all of them.

***

Not everything that was written on the Liahona was a rebuke. We read:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.

29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, …” – 1 Nephi 16:28-29

For the most part, the Liahona communicated a positive message with Lehi and his family. The pointers on the Liahona literally guided them on their path to the promised land. The writing on the Liahona was plain to be read – it was written in the language that they could understand. This writing helped Lehi and his family to understand the ways of the Lord, and it was written and changed from time to time.

Notice that phrase, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and then recall 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

The Lord, in His mercy, gave Lehi and his family another way that they could understand His ways, His dealings. Even though I don’t know exactly what the words on the Liahona said, I am guessing that the additional understanding they received from these words brought them comfort. So, the Liahona not only guided their path, but gave them understanding, and comfort.

Modern Day Liahonas

When I read about the Liahona, I can’t help but think I wish I had one. Wouldn’t it be nice? On my own proverbial journey to the promised land, there are times I don’t know where to go. It would be so easy to simply look at a compass, see the spindles, read the words, and know that I need to go that way next.

But, I don’t have a Liahona. At least not in the same way that Lehi had. However, we do have many things that serve the same function as a Liahona in our lives.

Scriptures

Nearly five hundred years after the Liahona was used by Lehi to guide his family to the promised land, Alma taught his son about the “Liahona” that they had in their lives:

“38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” – Alma 37:38-39, 44-45

Alma teaches that the word of God can function as a Liahona in our own personal lives and on our personal journeys to the ultimate “promised land.” And just imagine. Alma taught this to his son – in the New World – about 74 years before the Savior was born. They had the brass plates and the words of the prophets, but compare that to now!!!

The word of God that we have available to our fingertips is astounding. We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We have the transcripts of talks given by modern day prophets at general conference. We have other good blogs and testimonies of friends – both real life and virtual. We have so many ways to get the word of God in our lives.

The amazing thing about the scriptures is that they were written thousands of years ago, but can have specific and personal application now.

For the most part, when I study the scriptures, I have found that the words aren’t directly related to what I’m experiencing in life. HOWEVER, the words of the scriptures bring the Spirit. My choice to study them opens a conduit between my heart and the Spirit of the Lord. And then, I’m able to receive specific instruction and inspiration that applies directly to my life.

In this way, I believe that the impact of the scriptures in our lives is cumulative rather than singular. (or at least usually). When we go to the scriptures day after day, that conduit is opened day after day. We have more inspiration flowing between our hearts and the Spirit day after day.

Even though I think that, on the whole, scripture study is a cumulative experience, I have also had the rare singular experience while reading the scriptures. If you want to read about one of those experiences you can here.

So – the scriptures are a “liahona” in our lives. And yet, I can’t help but find myself still kinda wishing that I had a real liahona in my life. (Please forgive me, I understand that this is probably not the most faithful sentiment…but I’m being honest).

This feeling – why can’t we have these personal liahonas in our lives – I promise isn’t a thought of complaint or murmur against God. I’m seriously wondering about it. Lehi and his family had one. Why did they have this access to God? Do we have the same access?

And even though I just said that we have the Liahona – in the form of scriptures – Lehi and his family also had the scriptures. Wasn’t that enough? Yet the Lord, in His love and mercy, provided them with a Liahona. Do we have other, more personal Liahonas today?

As I ponder this question – Do we have other, more personal Liahonas in our lives today, I can’t help but feel that the answer is…YES!

Priesthood Blessings

Patriarchal Blessings

President Thomas S. Monson taught:

“The same Lord who provided a Liahona to Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless treasure. …

“… Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers. … Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way” – Thomas S. Monson

I’m so silly! I sit and get somewhat jealous that Lehi and his family had a “ball of curious workmanship” which pointed directions and had messages written on it from time to time. And yet, I have a patriarchal blessing!

This blessing has been recorded, and I have a copy of it. I’m afraid to admit that I’m guilty of what President Monson advised us not to do. My blessing is folded neatly and tucked away. And I am even more ashamed to admit that I can’t remember the last time I read it.

I say that I want personal instruction in my life – AND I HAVE IT!!! Silly, silly me.

I do love my patriarchal blessing, and I haven’t always forgotten to read it. My blessing has been a help for me and my life ever since I received it. Like the Liahona, it has helped to guide my path, it has helped me to better understand the Lord, and it has brought me great comfort.

Priesthood Blessings
Because I’m still somewhat unsatisfied, I keep noticing the following phrase about the words written on the Liahona:

“…and it was written and changed from time to time,…” – 1 nephi 16:29

Yes, we have scriptures that can be like a Liahona in our lives. And yes, we have Patriarchal Blessings that are very personal, and can also act as a Liahona in our lives. But these – the words in them – are both static. Even if different things stand out to you each time you read them – in either the scriptures or your patriarchal blessing – the words are actually the same each time.

Yet, the words on the Liahona were not always the same. It wasn’t one word inscribed in stone. These words “changed from time to time.”

Do we have “Liahonas” in our lives that act this way? Once again – YES!!! Priesthood blessings.

Priesthood blessings can help to guide us, help us to understand God, and can bring us considerable comfort. Priesthood blessings are given to us in real time. They are another “Liahona” for our lives!

President Oaks taught:

“What is the significance of a priesthood blessing? Think of a young man preparing to leave home to seek his fortune in the world. If his father gave him a compass, he might use this worldly tool to help him find his way. If his father gave him money, he could use this to give him power over worldly things. A priesthood blessing is a conferral of power over spiritual things. Though it cannot be touched or weighed, it is of great significance in helping us overcome obstacles on the path to eternal life.” – Dallin H. Oaks

I’m so very fortunate to be married to a man who holds and honors the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood. There have been many times when I have asked him for a blessing, and he always obliges. The words of the blessings come from the Lord.

The words in priesthood blessings may change from time to time – just as the words of the Liahona did. This doesn’t nullify earlier blessings. It is simply newer information that will help to guide our paths.

I want to make a quick mention that these blessings are blessings! They aren’t magic. They aren’t fortunes. They aren’t oracles. They are blessings from God – given to us to help us have comfort, wisdom, and guidance. We need to respect the Priesthood and the blessings of the priesthood.

***

Tomorrow – I’ll explore how the Liahona worked in the Lives of Lehi – and how it relates to our modern Liahonas as well.

The Importance of Maintaining Faith During Oppressive Trials – 1 Nephi 16:17-24

You can read 1 Nephi 16:17-24 here.

Context and General Information

  • After traveling for many days, Lehi and his family pitched their tents so they could get some food.
  • Nephi went forth to slay food, and he broke his very nice, steel bow. His brothers were angry with him because of this. Their bows had already lost their spring, so they were rendered useless. Nephi’s bow was the last reliable weapon for obtaining food, and now it was gone.
  • Nephi and his brothers returned from hunting without any food. Everyone was very fatigued and extremely hungry – after all of the journeying they had just done. So the news of no food and a broken bow didn’t go over very well. In fact, not only did Laman and Lemuel begin to murmur, but also the sons of Ishmael and even Lehi.
  • Nephi spoke with his brethren, trying to comfort them and get them to stop complaining against God.
  • Nephi then made a simple bow and arrow out of wood and a straight stick, respectively. He also armed himself with a sling and stones. He asked his father where to go to obtain food.
  • Lehi inquired of the Lord where Nephi should go – he had humbled himself because of Nephi’s emphatic and energizing words.

Maintaining Faith During Oppressive Trials

I can’t even estimate how many times I’ve read this story. Yet, every time I read it, I learn something new. That’s the amazing thing about the scriptures. The same words, written thousands of years ago, read repeatedly are relevant.

Okay. So here we go.

As we read yesterday the journey in the Saudi Peninsula (which is most likely where Lehi and his family were traveling) was not an easy journey. This is a hot and arid part of the world. For the most part, the Saudi Peninsula is a series of deserts. Yet, the Lord guided them through the more fertile parts of the land during their journey.

Now, the more fertile parts of the land happen to be in the mountains on the western side of the Saudi Peninsula – near the Red Sea. We know from Nephi’s account that he and his family were “in the borders near the Red Sea.” (See 1 Nephi 16:14.)

We don’t know exactly where they were walking. Were they in the mountains? Were they traveling at the base of the mountains? I suppose we can make an educated guess – as Lehi later on instructs Nephi, according to the instructions given on the Liahona, to go hunt for food in the “tops of the mountains.” So – they were probably near enough to the mountains, but they weren’t already traveling on the tops of them.

This makes sense to me. It would be pretty hard to caravan on the “tops” of mountains.” Perhaps they were at the foothills.

What’s the point of all of this? I guess it is just to help us really internalize what it was like for Lehi and his family. They are in a hot part of the world. I checked today’s weather in Mecca, which is probably near to where Lehi and his family were traveling, and it is 104. I used to live in Phoenix, AZ. I can relate to this kind of heat. And I can tell you – I wouldn’t want to be caravanning in it!

So – they are probably hot (not sure when they left Jerusalem. I hope they were taking their journey through this part of the world during winter!) They have been walking for days. They are hungry. They don’t just want food. They need it.

And then, Nephi goes and breaks his bow.

Nephi! Nephi is righteous, and has been righteous from the start of this journey.

This is Nephi – who didn’t directly receive revelation that his family was supposed to leave Jerusalem for a promised land. His father received that revelation. Yet, Nephi, instead of complaining about leaving his friends, comforts, and life behind in Jerusalem, goes to the Lord. He gains a testimony that they truly do need to flee from Jerusalem.

This is Nephi – who when he was told by his father to go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban, didn’t murmur but stated one of the most quoted scriptures I will go and do.

This is Nephi – who not only told his father he would “go and do,” but he actually went and did. Despite two failed attempts, Nephi kept his courage, entered into Jerusalem armed only with the Spirit, and prevailed against Laban, obtaining the plates.

This is Nephi – who faithfully returned, once again, to Jerusalem, to get the family of Ishmael, and when his brothers rebelled, he followed the promptings of the Spirit and spoke to his brothers.

This is Nephi – who heard the words of his father’s dream and prophecies, and, instead of complaining that they were hard to understand, pondered them and asked the Lord for clarity. Because of his faith, he beheld a dream that gave him a sure and special witness of Jesus Christ and the future.

This is Nephi – who encouraged his brethren time and time again to turn to the Lord.

This is Nephi – who, had kept all of the commandments of God and had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly.

Nephi didn’t murmur or complain. He didn’t drag his feet. He was faithful and courageous…and he broke his bow.

Wasn’t the challenge of journeying to a promised land already difficult enough?!?! Nephi didn’t deserve more trials. And look – his brothers were actually being faithful! Now, they are being afflicted again, with the lack of food while in the middle of a physically demanding journey.

I’m sure that you are familiar with this kind of situation. It happens all the time. We face challenges. It is common to expect that afflictions will come to us when we break the commandments. So many of the commandments are given to us to keep us safe. It makes sense that we would be “punished” or tried when we aren’t living worthy of the Lord’s guidance.

But that’s the thing – Nephi and his family were living faithfully. They were being guided by the Liahona. They were working hard and they were on the move. And then, he faces this challenge – even when they are already in such challenging circumstances.

Richard G. Scott taught:

““May I share some suggestions with you who face … the testing that a wise Heavenly Father determines is needed even when you are living a worthy, righteous life and are obedient to His commandments.

“Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain” – Richard G. Scott

Yikes. I don’t like that – discomfort and pain. It is obvious that Nephi and his family were experience intense discomfort, which was exacerbated by Nephi breaking his bow.

Murmuring can be Contagious

As a result of this unfortunate event, Nephi’s brothers start to complain. They are angry with Nephi. They want food.

Nephi and his brothers return to their father, and the angry attitude exhibited by the brothers starts to spread. In fact, even Lehi complains against God.

If I take the time to think about that for myself, it is a good reminder on one reason why it is important to maintain a positive and faithful attitude. A murmuring and unfaithful attitude can infect others and bring them down. Complaining may feel good in the moment. We like to call it “venting,” but in my experience, this “venting” usually only begets more anger and frustration – more murmuring, and more “venting.”

What’s the point?! I’ve been in situations where people are frustrated with their predicaments to the point that they are murmuring against God. And you know what – it stinks! It is so hard to ward off that negativity and remain positive.

My life, right now, isn’t all that different than Nephi’s. In fact, most of us can relate to Nephi in one way or another. Many of us are on our own “journeys” to the promised land. In my life, I need the guidance of my Heavenly Father. I don’t have the luxury to murmur and complain. I don’t have the luxury to be around people who will mess up my good vibe with their murmuring and complaining. I imagine that it was the same for Nephi.

I mean, he was hungry, too! And now, he’s surrounded by people who are complaining. Their complaints lack faith, but are probably justified in their minds because of what they consider the “reality” of the situation. They are starving!

Even though they may feel justified, I have to ask again, What’s the point??? What good did it really do for Laman or Lemuel or Lehi to murmur? How did it improve their situation? It was a complete waste of time and energy.

Thankfully Nephi had kept an eye of faith. Unfortunately, he had to waste some time to buoy up his brothers. But he did. And then, because of his faithful attitude, because of his positivity, he was able to find a solution.

Imagine if Nephi had given in to the negativity and murmuring? I think that we could safely guess that if Nephi had given into the “venting,” the anger, the complaints, then…we wouldn’t have this record. They wouldn’t have made it to the promised land. They might have starved to death right there – in some random place on the Arabian Peninsula near the borders of the Red Sea.

They didn’t have that luxury! This was a life-or-death situation! They needed to remain positive and close to the Spirit, or die. If Nephi had given into the temptation to be frustrated, then all of the work – all of the trials, all of the journeying, all of the trips back to Jerusalem – all of it would have been a waste because they would have wasted away in the wilderness.

Thankfully, Nephi stayed in a positive state – one that made him worthy of the guidance, comfort, and companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because he wasn’t wasting his time complaining, he thought of a solution:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?” – 1 Nephi 16:23

One last thing.

This is such a simple solution. I mean, it’s almost like a Duh solution. And I will admit that I’ve even wondered, why did it take them so long to figure that out?! Duh! Make a bow! Get some food!

And that’s the thing – usually there are pretty simple solutions to our problems. But if we are so overcome with worry, fear, and doubting our God, we cloud our vision. We become blind to the obvious answers around us.

Instead, if we want to be able to find solutions during the challenges of our lives, we need to remain calm. We need to see the situation objectively – rather than feel that it is a personal slight against us from God. We need to pray that our perspectives can be broadened. As we take this calm and rational approach, then we will be able to see clearly. The Lord will help to direct our paths so we can find solutions – even in the middle of excruciatingly difficult trials.

There is no benefit to negativity or murmuring. It is a stupid thing to do. It blinds us. It paralyzes us. We don’t look smarter. We aren’t better off. We will miss the opportunities. We will close our minds and eyes off – making it impossible for us to find the solutions we so desperately need in our lives. There is no benefit to negativity, complaining or murmuring. None. Whatsoever.

So – we need to stay faithful. Even when our faith leads us on a road that feels difficult. Even when our faith seems to allow for problems and challenges. We need to remember that the faithful path is uphill. The Lord is bringing us to higher ground. There will be obstacles, and this isn’t a personal slight against us. It’s just the way it is.

Staying positive and faithful is the only way to keep our vision. Keeping our faith keeps our eyes – both spiritual and physical open. Because Nephi kept his faith, his entire family was saved. He found a solution. They got food. They made it to the promised land.

The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness – 1 Nephi 16:9-16

You can read 1 Nephi 16:9-16 here.

Context and General Information

  • One evening, the Lord commanded Lehi that the next day, he needed to continue on his journey into the wilderness.
  • When Lehi woke up the next morning, he found a “ball of curious workmanship” on the ground at the door of his tent. This ball had spindles and pointed the way he should go in the wilderness. Later on, we will learn that they called this the Liahona.
  • Lehi and his family gathered their provisions, the things that the Lord had given them, and seeds of every kind, and then they departed into the wilderness.
  • They traveled across the river and journeyed for four days in a south-southeast direction.
  • Lehi and his family pitched their tents in a place that they called Shazer – which means twisting or intertwining.
  • Nephi and his brothers took their bows and arrows and went into the wilderness to slay food for their families. After restocking on their food, they took their journey up again – following the same southeasterly direction and trying to stay in the more fertile parts of the wilderness, which were near the Red Sea.
  • They traveled for many days, slaying food by the way – with their bows and arrows and slings.
  • The path of their travel was given to them by the directions on the ball that Lehi found on his doorstep. It led them in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.
  • After traveling “many days” they pitched their tents for a “space of time” – so they could rest up and obtain food for their families.

The More Fertile Parts of the Wilderness

At first, I thought I’d study more about the Liahona, since it is just such an interesting thing. But, then I found myself going down a rabbit hole. And since I only have a few minutes left of scripture reading time – that’s that.

Here’s what stood out to me today:

“And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 16:16

I’ve usually thought of Lehi’s journey in the wilderness as just terrible. I know that the scriptural meaning of the word wilderness isn’t quite what we think of it. I know that when I think of the “wilderness,” I think of something like the Appalachian Trail or a National Park. I think of some place that is protected by our government from development.

When I was a kid, I lived in Texas and then later in Pennsylvania. In Texas, a “wilderness” spot (which was hard to find in Houston), was near the Bayou. It was full of trees, snakes, water, wildflowers, and all sorts of critters. When I was a youth, I’d go to girl’s camp (at a camp called Camp Liahona!) It was in the woods of East Texas. We would play in streams and in the woods. Of course, we had to be careful because the place was riddled with rattlers.

In Pennsylvania, the wilderness was the woods. If you have read My Side of the Mountain, then you get a good idea of what it was like – oaks, maples, beech, birch, walnut, pine, more trees than you could imagine. There were squirrels, chipmunks, deer.

The wilderness, in my experience, has been a place of peace and wonder.

But, in the Book of Nephi, and pretty much all of the scriptures as far as I can tell, the wilderness means something else. It is dangerous. It is wild. It is void of food. It’s not this refuge of peace that we might think. It’s a “waste” place. In Isaiah, we read:

“For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” – Isaiah 51:3

Here, in Isaiah, the wilderness will become Eden. (My experiences in the “wilderness” were more Eden-like! They were peaceful, joyful, and restoring. They weren’t stressful waste places.

In the story of Lehi and his family – the wilderness is the opposite of the promised land.

Lehi had to travel through the difficult wilderness to get to the promised land. And Lehi had no control on the vastness of the wilderness that he would have to traverse. His traveling in the wilderness was simply the process. It was the path to the promised land. It wasn’t a punishment. It was the way!

NOW…

We read that Lehi had a Liahona. This was direct guidance from God, according to their faith. And where did it lead them – in the more fertile parts of the wilderness. Isn’t that a comfort?!

Even though they still had to travel in the wilderness, the impact of that wilderness was a little gentler.

The Fertile Parts

So- we live in the modern, information age. We have the answers at our fingertips. I went to google maps and looked up the Red Sea. I looked at it with the satellite view. For the most part, the Arabian Peninsula is a dry wasteland.

The Nafud Desert is in the Northern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Then there is another desert, the Rub’al Khali – which encompasses most of the southern THIRD of the Arabian Peninsula.

In between the deserts is another desert.

Imagine traveling through this wilderness! For years!

And Lehi didn’t have google maps. He couldn’t look at the whole peninsula with a satellite view. He couldn’t see that – despite these insane deserts, there is a fertile place. Right along the border of the Red Sea.

That mountain range! It isn’t the promised land, to be sure. But it is fertile.

Go do a search on google maps. When you do, look at the pictures that people have added. Among this desert, there is a mountain range that is significantly more fertile than the deserts that surround it.

I can only imagine the comfort that Lehi felt as that Liahona guided him and his family to the fertile parts of this dry, hot land. Even the fertile parts aren’t easy. This is all still the wilderness. But the Lord supported them in their wilderness. He guided them personally.

He will guide us, too. Even when we are surrounded by danger and deserts on every side, if we remain faithful and close to the Lord, then He will guide us to the “more fertile” parts of our own “wilderness.”

***

PS. I didn’t proofread. Please excuse mistakes. Thanks!

 

They are Righteous Forever – 1 Nephi 12:1-11

You can read 1 Nephi 12:1-11 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to look, and he looks.
  • Nephi sees his posterity. They have multiplied exceedingly. They have had wars and contentions. They have built so many cities, Nephi doesn’t even number them. Many generations have passed away.
  • Nephi saw a mist of darkness cover the earth. He also saw various natural disasters. Many people died, but those were more righteous were spared.
  • Nephi saw the Savior come and show himself to the people.
  • Nephi saw twelve among his people who were ordained of God and chosen.
  • The Angel explains to Nephi that those 12 of his seed will be judged later by the apostles. He also tells that these will be righteous forever because of their faith in Christ.
  • Nephi also saw three more generations pass away (after the visitation by Christ) who were righteous because of their faith in Christ and His Atonement.

They Are Righteous Forever

I truly can’t imagine having the vision that Nephi is having right now. I can’t imagine seeing my posterity – years, decades, even centuries from now. The people that Nephi sees in vision are his posterity – either his directly or the posterity of his brothers. We will talk more about this in a later blog post, but I just want to say that I truly can’t imagine it.

As Nephi sees the distant future of the civilization that he started, he sees that the Savior will visit his people. The Savior will bless the Nephites with apostles – ordained and chosen to minister to the people. About these disciples we learn:

” And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.” – 1 Nephi 12:10

Not only that, but the remainder of the people were also righteous. We read:

“And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.” – 1 Nephi 12:11

Don’t you love that phrase: they are righteous forever?! It is my desire – to be able to achieve righteousness that lasts forever. Unfortunately, my righteousness usually lasts until about 15 minutes after I’ve partaken of the sacrament. By then, I’ve usually had some kind of judgmental thought that makes me need the ordinance again. Not to mention the ways that I stray from righteousness throughout the week.

But, interestingly enough, these disciples and Nephites aren’t righteous forever because of their own willpower and brute strength. It is through their faith in the Lamb of God. The idea of reaching some pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness kind of seems impossible.

Of course, it is.

And I often misunderstand. That isn’t what God expects in order for us to qualify for the blessings of salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, the Lord asks us to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” And, as we have read in this scripture today, we simply need to have faith in Christ – this faith will help to qualify us so that our “garments are made white” in the blood of the Lamb.

The Savior explained:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” – 3 Nephi 27:19-20

One – Faith

First, and foremost, we need to have faith. We need to believe in Christ – that He truly did come to the earth in the meridian of time. We need to believe that He lived a perfect life. We need to believe that He ministered to the poor, needy, sick, blind, and hungry. We need to believe that He taught by precept and example. We need to believe that He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and took on the sins of the world – so we could be provided a way to be saved. We need to believe that He willingly went on the cross and gave up His life so that He could take it up again – overcoming the sting of death and hell.

Not only do we need to believe in Christ, but we also need to have enough faith in Him to practice what He has taught.

Two – Repentance

Faith in Christ helps us to understand why we need Him. As our faith in Him grows, we become capable of seeing the need we have for a Savior. We then will heed His word:

“15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19

Three – Baptism in Christ Name

After cultivating faith and then repenting, we will then be led to baptism – a covenant that has been made available through Christ. In baptism, we will receive a remission of our sins. This principle was taught in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;” – Doctrine and Covenants 55:1

And baptism, then, leads us to…

Four – The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Often, when I think of the gift of the Holy Ghost, I think of the constant companionship of the Comforter. And, of course it is that. But think about that phrase – constant companionship. And think about the fact that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead.

We won’t just get the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead just because. We know that no unclean thing can dwell with God. And yes, we have been baptized by the time we have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but another important facet of this gift is that the Holy Ghost sanctifies us. He makes us holy. We learn:

“Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.” – Alma 13:12

Now – notice this scripture, how it comes full circle with where we started. Just so you know, the context of Alma 13 is Alma teaching about the priesthood and those called to it (just like the disciples that the Angel showed to Nephi).

They had covenanted with God in the waters of baptism, and they had been sanctified through by Holy Ghost. These people were purified and sanctified which happens to each of us when we covenant with God and then live worthy of our covenants.

Such purification and sanctification then results in our desire to remain righteous – because then we remain both pure and holy.

I realize that there are many who misunderstand what it means to be pure and holy. Perhaps the important thing to emphasize here is that the apostles were made pure and holy through the blood of Christ. He doesn’t expect us to be some kind of extra-terrestrial being that is innately “pure.” Purity doesn’t mean prudishness or puritanism. Instead, we become pure as we go to the Lord with fulness of heart and real intent.

And then He makes us pure. We, then are made clean through His blood, and can be – if we will continually choose Him – righteous and happy forever.

***
Thanks for reading today. This was probably a boring post, but I really like understanding what I believe in. The doctrine of Christ really is beautiful. There is so much mercy and love in it. There is sacrifice, yes – which leads to hope and joy.