Look! And I looked… – 1 Nephi 11:8-23

You can read 1 Nephi 11:8-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • According to Nephi’s desire and faith, the Spirit begins to show Nephi the things that Lehi saw in a dream.
  • Nephi sees the tree his father saw – it exceeds all beauty.
  • After seeing the tree, the Spirit tells Nephi that it is most precious above all. The Spirit then asks Nephi, “What desirest thou?”
  • Nephi wants to know the interpretation of this tree.
  • Nephi spoke to the Spirit as a man speaks to another man. Th Spirit was in the form of a man, but Nephi knew it wasn’t actually a man.
  • The Spirit answers Nephi by telling him to Look!
  • Nephi saw Jerusalem, Nazareth, and a virgin.
  • The Spirit asks Nephi if he knows the condescension of God, but Nephi doesn’t.
  • The Spirit explains that the virgin that Nephi sees is the mother of the Son of God. She was carried away in the Spirit, then the Spirit told Nephi: Look!
  • Nephi looked and saw the virgin bearing a child in her arms – the Son of God.
  • Through this, Nephi begins to understand the meaning of the tree- the love of God – it is the most desirable above all things and the most joyous to the soul.
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Amazing what you’ll see when you stop to look.

Look! And I Looked..

Yesterday, I already mentioned that we would study this section for more than one day. Some of this, I actually wrote in yesterday’s post. Yesterday, when I started studying/writing a blog post, I actually had titled it “Look! And I looked…” (today’s title). Then, if you read yesterday’s post you already know this, the post went in a completely different direction – one I wasn’t necessarily prepared for, but it was the exact right thing to study. So, I changed yesterday’s post title then published it as you read it.

But I really like the concept of looking and I wanted to study it further…

So I’m going to repeat a few things from yesterday, but not everything will be the same, I promise.

For the past couple of days, we’ve studied Nephi’s desire. He wanted to know the the things his father had seen. This is how chapter 11 opens. Now, the After a little back and forth, the Spirit rejoices – Nephi has the desire and faith in order for Nephi to learn more about this dream. The Lord will grant according to Nephi’s desires.

So then, what we read next looks like this, right? (Spoiler alert, this is NOT how it goes).

The Spirit pulls down a giant blackboard, dons a pair of glasses and writes at the top of the Blackboard: Lehi’s Dream. “Get your plates and etching tool out, Nephi. You’re gonna need to take notes.”

Then he continues, “First all – the tree. It symbolizes the love of God. Okay? Get it? Let me know when you’re done writing…”

If you’ve read the text, then you know that there is no blackboard, no glasses, no list of meanings.

The Spirit doesn’t just show Nephi the dream and tells him what it means. Instead, the Spirit commands: Look!

And Nephi looks.

This is kind of fascinating to me. Look! The command, “Look!” appears at least 12 times throughout the vision that Nephi sees. (There are other similar commands, too – like Behold…but I didn’t count the “beholds.”) Instead of answering Nephi’s question outright, the Spirit bids him to look.

So, in other words, instead of answering Nephi’s question with information, the Spirit answers Nephi with an experience that requires work on Nephi’s part.

After “looking” the first time, the Spirit asks Nephi again what desirest thou? Nephi answered that he wanted – not only to see what his father saw, but to understand the interpretation of that tree.

How does the Spirit answer?

“And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.” – 1 Nephi 11:12

Over and over again, the Spirit says to Nephi: Look!

And Nephi looks.

What can we learn from this?

One – The Teacher

What really stands out to me is that this is how the Lord chose to teach Nephi. He doesn’t tell Nephi. Instead, the Lord invites Nephi to have an experience.

As a mother, am I just telling my children? Lecturing them? And then expecting them to learn this way? Or am I inviting them to have an experience – with the Spirit that will help them to know what they need to know? I can’t force my children to look, but I can force them not to look by keeping them from the opportunity in the first place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about persuasion lately, and I actually think that this is one of the keys of persuasion – letting the person “look” for themselves. We can learn from this experience, too. Nephi is high up on a mountain. He is in a safe environment. The Lord is letting him “look” and experience these teachings in a relative risk-free place.

Part of this, of course, is because the place needs to be holy in order for the Lord’s spirit to dwell there. But I also think that there is something we can learn about this as parents.

While our children are still in the safety of home, we can let them have their own experiences where they have to “look” instead of endure lectures. Then, we can help to guide them – just as the Spirit guided Nephi – as they learn for themselves.

Two – Accountability

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Spirit asking Nephi “What desirest thou?” for the last few days. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Spirit, instead of answering Nephi directly, giving the answer of “look!” Yes, Nephi’s question is answered, but it requires much more work and submission on Nephi’s part.

I also feel fairly confident that the Lord knew exactly what Nephi wanted.

But I think that the Spirit asks Nephi “What desirest thou?” and then requires work of Nephi by telling him to Look! Because what Nephi sees is a big deal. The Lord can’t force this on Him. The Lord can’t just “show” Him. Nephi can’t be passive. If he is to see and understand all of what the Lord will show, then it absolutely must be based on Nephi’s agency and his tenacity to keep looking.

Even before Nephi sees the vision, the Spirit tells Nephi:

“And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.” – 1 Nephi 11:7

This isn’t just a fun dream for Nephi. The Lord isn’t answering him just to satisfy his curiosity. Nephi will be a witness of Christ, and then after that, Nephi will be expected to bear a special witness of Christ.

The command to “Look!” is required because the information he receives is so sensitive. If Nephi isn’t willing to do the work for this desire, then the Lord can’t give it. It would be unfair – to Nephi!

I mean think about it – if Nephi was to treat this vision and revelation lightly, he might have been treading on the line of perdition. The Lord wouldn’t set Nephi, you, or me up for that kind of problem. But that is what’s on the line for any blessing, really. Satan is always going to try to destroy us. We need to remember the warning that the Savior gave to Peter:

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” – Luke 22:31

If the Lord is too liberal with His prophecies, revelations, blessings, then He knows He might be setting us up for massive failure.

To Peter, the Savior continues:

“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” – Luke 22:32

The Vision that Nephi sees – the interpretation of the Vision, as well – is a vision that will give Nephi a special witness of Christ. It is powerful. Depending on how Nephi chooses to use this powerful experience, it will either propel him closer to God and make him a mighty prophet, or it will destroy him.

I know that Heavenly Father understood this. In a way, each utterance, “What desirest thou?” and each command, “Look!” is another time for Nephi to exercise his agency. The Lord will not force this amazing blessing on Nephi. Yes, the Lord wants us to know Him – He wants each of us to develop testimony like this. He delights in blessing us with all of His greatest blessings.

But He will not force them on us.

Not only that, the Lord is merciful. He knows that if there is a blessing that He’s willing to bestow on us, but that it comes with a lot of responsibility, then He gives us many opportunities to really understand and make the choice to receive the blessing.

Nephi had many choices, and each time he faithfully chose to Look! He faithfully chose the Lord, and I think that this is what makes Nephi Nephi! This is how his testimony develops. This is the game-changer. Nephi was part of the “game changer” moment. He chose the Lord when he chose to look.

What are We Doing?

I want to bring in what I’ve been learning in the last few days – desire and now looking. When we express our desires to the Lord, I think that He gives each of us the opportunities we need to receive. Are we taking those opportunities?

Just like the vision that Nephi’s having, sometimes these opportunities happen in real time. The Lord teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept – which means we might have to “look” again and again and again until we receive according to our desires. (By the way, we’re assuming that these desires are righteous and in line with the will of God).

When Nephi told the Spirit that his desire was to know the interpretation of the tree that his father saw, the Spirit responded with: Look!

Nephi looked. The Spirit was gone completely, and then Nephi saw:

  • Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other great cities.
  • A beautiful virgin

The Spirit interrupted and asked Nephi what he saw. Nephi told the Spirit, and then the Spirit asked:

“…Knowest thou the condescensionof God?” – 1 Nephi 11:16

Nephi admits that he doesn’t know the condescension of God. The Spirit tells Nephi that the virgin was the Savior’s mother. Then Nephi was back to looking/beholding without the Spirit telling or explaining. Now he sees:

  • A virgin bearing a child in her arms.

The Spirit stops again, and then bears witness of that child saying:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” – 1 Nephi 11:21

I’m not sure how Nephi really began to understand this – other than through the experience of looking, He was feeling the Spirit, too. But Nephi answers:

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

He gets it! He is beginning to understand exactly what his father saw.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, and we don’t really need to understand those ways to know that he works. When we understand that, then we will be like Nephi – willing to “look.”

It is worth noting that Nephi’s “looking” isn’t just a passive stare. He is looking, listening, feeling, and learning. The Spirit is working with His Spirit – so that he is able to discover what his father’s dream meant – rather than simply be told.

In our own lives, we shouldn’t be passive either. We need to heed the promptings of the Spirit with exactness and with real intent. It is then that we will learn and receive what we desire.

Thanks for looking at looking with me today.

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A Wise Purpose – 1 Nephi 9:5-6

You can read 1 Nephi 9:5-6 here.

Context and General Information

  • The Lord commanded Nephi to make a second set of plates for a wise purpose, but Nephi doesn’t know what that is.
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A Pretty Picture Just Because

A Wise Purpose

I love what we learn in these scriptures.

In chapter 9, Nephi is narrating the abridgment of his own records (and his father’s). We learn that all along he had been keeping a record of what was happening with his family, and then, the Lord wants him to abridge what he has written and what his father has written – including only the most important things of the ministry.

I think that if I were Nephi, it would feel a bit redundant. But here is Nephi’s response:

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” – 1 Nephi 9:5

Nephi received the commandment, and he doesn’t know why the Lord wants it. And the amazing thing is: Nephi doesn’t need to know the specifics. He trusts the Lord enough to know that the Lord always has a purpose. Nephi continues:

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.” – 1 Nephi 9:6

Why does Nephi obey? Because he knows that God is a trustworthy God. He knows that God doesn’t give arbitrary and pointless commandments. He knows that our Heavenly Father is purposeful and wise – that He is omniscient and that He is capable of aiding men and women in keeping the commandments that He has given to them.

As always, I think that it is helpful to remember the opposite examples:

“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

Nephi obeys God – even without knowing the real purpose of this commandment because He knows God.

Personal Application

Am I doing my best to simply trust God?

Now, I don’t want to be mistaken. I don’t believe in blind faith. Trusting in God doesn’t mean that we are just stupidly and blindly proceeding along in our lives.

Nephi’s faith isn’t “blind.” His faith is powered by what He knows. Or, more accurately – who he knows.

Even though Nephi doesn’t know the purpose of the Lord’s command, he does know the Lord. He knows that the Lord can be trusted. Nephi knows that even though he doesn’t know the purpose, there IS still a purpose!

When I face times where I don’t know the purpose of what God is commanding me, or when I face times when I don’t understand the reason that God is allowing me to endure affliction, then I think that I can follow Nephi’s example – trust in God based on the nature of God that I know.

Now, I actually think that the thing I struggle with the most is starting to doubt myself.

For example, recently, I’ve felt prompted to do something that is way outside of my comfort zone, and it requires more faith than I think I can muster. But I’m doing my best with it.

I’ve been following the promptings that the Lord has been giving me, even though they may not always feel very intuitive to me.

I’ve also had confirmation on more than one occasion – there are others who are receiving promptings that relate to what I’m doing. We are on the same track. Truly it’s a “two or more witnesses scenario.”

But the thing is – sometimes life gets hard. I’ve had to make some major decisions and sacrifices, and I’m tempted to wonder:

Am I just crazy? I don’t understand why I’m doing this. It makes no logical sense to me. In fact, it goes against every sensibility I have. Yet, I feel like I should do this…I feel like this is a prompting of the Spirit, but maybe I underestimate my ability to receive his daily direction…Maybe I’m an idiot.

I want to see the purpose because often, in the past, I can find a purpose in the personal commandments I’ve been given – or in the afflictions I’ve endured. Often the Lord helps me to understand the purpose so that I can do a better job.

But this time, I can’t see His purpose. I don’t know it.

I just have to trust Him.

I wish I could say that I was great at it, but I’m not. And I’m so thankful for the scriptures. I was talking with a friend the other day, just updating her on my own life, and I found myself quoting the scripture: “The Lord commanded me [to do this] for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” I told her, while I also realized once again, that I don’t need to know the purpose. I simply need to obey. I can trust Him.

Why don’t I need to know? Well, let’s just look at Nephi’s example.

Do you think that it would have made all that much a difference if Nephi understood what was going to happen some 2,000 years later? If the Lord said to Nephi: “Okay Nephi. You and your dad have been keeping records, and that’s good. In about 1,000 years, your people – the Nephites – will willfully rebel against me, and they will lose the gospel that they had and their civilization will end.

Before this happens, one of my servants will bury the records in the ground. And then, 1,800 years after that, I will bring forth those records through a young man named Joseph Smith.

One of Joseph’s friends will have a lot of influence on him, and beg and plead to take the first manuscript home to show his wife.

This was not a manuscript of the entire Book of Mormon. It is simply the first part – the historical records kept by you and Lehi. Joseph would have written about 118 pages when he lent out the manuscript.

So, after much begging – and even though when Joseph Smith asked, I said no twice – finally Joseph Smith decided to let his friend borrow that manuscript. And then…it was lost.

Of course, it could have been found, but there are problems with that. So, instead, Nephi, you’ll write an abridgment of yours and your father’s records right now. Include only the most important things – related to the gospel and your ministry. Then later, I’ll be sure that these are included when the young Joseph Smith translates the plates.”

If something like that happened, then Nephi would have known why he needed to make another record. But I wonder, would he have done it? Would he have done it the right way? Would he have shortcut the process? Would he really understand how many people would be blessed by obeying this simple commandment, or was it too foreign of an idea?

I don’t know, but I think that there was a wise purpose in the Lord by not telling his wise purpose to Nephi.

And He also has a wise purpose when He prompts us without telling us His purpose. There are things that we need to learn, and maybe we’d shortcut the process if we knew His wise purpose.

In all – I can trust God. I can do what He has commanded me – no matter how far it pushes me out of my comfort zone…no matter how scary or final keeping these personal commandments may seem. Instead of being like the rich young ruler – who receives a commandment from God to give up all he has and follow Christ – and then he goes away mourning instead of obeying. Instead of being like him, I can be like Nephi – willing to give up or do whatever it takes to complete every personal commandment of the Lord because I know God and I trust that He has a wise purpose.

The Faithful Group – 1 Nephi 8:30, 33

Here is today’s reading:

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

…AND… 

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

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

Context and General Information

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

Dragon Fruit

The Faithful Group

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

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

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

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

Continually Holding Fast

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

Fast – Adjective
a : firmly fixed

  • roots fast in the ground
b : tightly shut

  • the drawers were fast
c : adhering firmly

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

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

  • movable items were made fast to the deck

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

What a difference this connotation makes!

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

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

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

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

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

And they reap eternal joy.

We Heeded Them Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know my response?

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Application

Eat more guacamole. hahaha. Just kidding.

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

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

Shame and Fear – 1 Nephi 8:24-28

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

Context and General Information

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

Worried…

Shame and Fear

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

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

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

We read:

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

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

But notice the word…clinging.

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

And it works…for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll give a personal example.

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

Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

Faith.

Back to my example from above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

 

 

They Wandered Off and Were Lost – 1 Nephi 8:18-23

You can read 1 Nephi 8:19-23.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi saw a rod of iron leading up to the tree of life.
  • Lehi saw a straight and narrow path along the rod of iron. It led through the large and spacious field and the head of the fountain.
  • Lehi saw many concourses of people looking to get to the path that led to the tree of life. They started on the path.
  • A great mist of darkness rose up. It was so thick and dark that many of the people who had commenced on the path lost their way.

Wandered off and Were Lost

They Wandered Off and Were Lost

I’m so fascinated with these groups of people we read about in Lehi’s dream.

The first group of people are searching. We read:

“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.” – 1 Nephi 8:21

There were so many people – numberless concourses. They are searching. They are pushing forward. They want to obtain the path that leads to the tree of life.

There is an interesting footnote in this verse. The footnote has a cross reference to the Doctrine and Covenants:

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—” – Doctrine and Covenants 123:12

There are so many who want to know the truth, they are searching for the truth. And some of these people are even deceived by subtle men who are preying on these earnest people. These people are only kept from the truth because they don’t know where to find it.

When I read scriptures like this, I am overwhelmed at my great blessing and fortune. I didn’t have to search far to find the gospel. My mother is a member of the church, and she raised me in the Church. I have had access to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the rest of the scriptures for my entire life. I have grown up to know that we have living prophets on this earth today. I have had the opportunity to make covenants with my Heavenly Father.

I didn’t have to search. The truth is right here – available to me so easily. It doesn’t seem fair.

Well, it isn’t fair. I recognize this. And I also recognize that it does me no good to only recognize the unfairness of my blessings – to have the gospel in my life. I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I was just born to a faithful mother who also had the gospel.

It isn’t fair, and I recognize that, but I don’t feel any shame. Instead, I feel great responsibility.

I think that shame is kind of popular right now. People of privilege are being taught to be ashamed of their privilege. I don’t think that this is helpful for anyone.

Should someone be proud of their privilege? No.

Instead, they should live up to it.

In other words, it doesn’t help anyone at all for me to be ashamed of my blessings – to the point where I don’t rise to the occasion and use them for the good of others.

Think of the parable of the talents. One man was given five, one was given two, and one was given one talent. You are probably familiar with the parable. The one with five talents invested and then made five more. The one with two made two more talents with his. Finally, the man with only one talent buried his.

When the Lord came back to these men, for an accounting, he saw that the first two had increased their talents. He commended them for their efforts. The last man had buried his talent. He didn’t use it. He didn’t create. He squandered his opportunity.

When the Lord made an accounting with him, this man’s talent was taken away and given to the first. He had been a poor steward of his resources.

So – think of it another way. Imagine that first man – who had been given five talents. Imagine if he had been embarrassed – because of his privilege.

Imagine if he had been embarrassed because of the blessings he had received – unfairly – while others only had two or even only one talent. He didn’t do anything to earn them. Imagine if this embarrassment had turned to shame.

Imagine if he had said

Five talents is too many. It makes other people feel bad because they don’t have as many talents as I do. I don’t want to look like a show-off. I don’t want to look like some rich, spoiled brat.

So…I’ll bury three of these talents – then cultivate two. Then it won’t seem so ostentatious.

If this is what the first person had done, what do you think that the Lord would have said to him when he came for the accounting? Do you think that the Lord would have said, “Oh…good. You buried three of your talents so that you could appear more modest and fair to the others.”

No way.

The Lord would have been disappointed. How would burying three talents help anyone? By vesting all of his talents and making more, he can do more. He can help to build the kingdom of the Lord. His wealth can help to generate more wealth and opportunity for others.

Yes – it’s unfair and I’m privileged. I’ve had the gospel my whole life. I’ve been blessed to live in the U.S. with access to good education and amazing experiences. In a way, I want to be “modest.” I don’t want people to feel bad because they haven’t been blessed in the same ways I have.

But I recognized that I have done nothing to deserve my blessings and privileges. I also recognize that those who do not have the same blessings and privileges that I have received their lots in the same arbitrary and unfair fashion as I did. I recognize that just as I did nothing to deserve my good fortune, others did nothing to deserve their less favorable fortunes.

I recognize that God did not give me my blessings “willy nilly.” He doesn’t love me more. I recognize that God gave me these blessings so I can use them in a way that will bless others.

Those people – struggling to find the path – who don’t know where to find the truth – aren’t wicked or unloved by God. They have inherited a less than ideal environment for life, and it is up to people like me – who have had so much handed to me – to extend my own hand to them.

***
Back to the dream for a second.

This is a dream, so more happens. (And remember – it is a dream!)

“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:23

This first group of people struggled to find the path and then a mist of darkness arose. Unfortunately, those souls who had just struggled so much to find the path were overcome by the mists of darkness. They couldn’t keep their bearings, and they wandered off the path and were lost.

***
This is a sad situation for these unfortunate souls. Luckily it is only a dream. Unfortunately, it is symbolic of real life.

There are people who have struggled to find truth in their lives, and just as they get close to it, they are challenged and then lose their way.

Personal Application

In a way, I think that this story sounds like it “just happens” – that people struggle to find truth and then end up getting consumed by the mists of darkness.

Maybe it does “just happen.”

I don’t know.

One thing I do know – the life, grace, and atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ can overcome the deleterious effects of wandering off the path. The Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Good Shepherd. He will find the one that is lost and bring them back to the fold, if they allow it.

I also know that we, those who have the truth, can be tools in the hands of the Good Shepherd.

What is the personal application for me today? Praise the Lord and express my gratitude that I was one of the “lucky” people – to have the gospel in my life from day one. That I haven’t had to search far for truth and light and love in my life. I can then do more to share my knowledge and testimony with others, so those who are looking for the truth can find it.

How is it??? – 1 Nephi 7:6-12

Read 1 Nephi 7:6-12 here.

Context and General Information

  • As Nephi, his brothers, and Ishmael and his family journeyed in the wilderness, Laman and Lemuel and a few of Ishmael’s children rebelled. They wanted to go back to Jerusalem.
  • Nephi was grieved for the hardness of their hearts – he spake to them asking How is it…???
IMG_9048

Howzit?!

How is it…???

Well…it hasn’t been long, and Laman and Lemuel are rebelling again. In this rebellion, Nephi asks the question “How is it…” several times in a few iterations.

I think that it will be helpful to go through these questions and even give a few answers. Maybe we’ll find ways that we can benefit from these questions.

How is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds?

This is a good question. How is it that Laman and Lemuel are so hard-hearted and blind? Of course, we already know the answer to why they murmur:

“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

They murmured because they didn’t know God. And why were they so hard-hearted? Well, later on in chapter two, we read about Nephi’s experience (in contrast of Laman and Lemeuel’s):

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

Laman and Lemuel never try. Nephi doesn’t just have a soft heart. He turned to the Lord. The Lord softened his heart. The Lord increased Nephi’s faith. The Lord enabled Nephi to have the kind of heart and mind that would not rebel.

This is what the Lord would have done for Laman and Lemuel, too. But the Lord will not force us. He didn’t force Laman and Lemuel. Even though they had a father-prophet, even though they had the scriptures, even though they knew how to pray, they didn’t make the choice to turn to the Lord. Their hearts continued to harden despite the circumstances and experiences that could have made their hearts fertile soil for faith and testimony.

How is it that they were so hard hearted and so blind? Because they never chose to turn to the Lord.

How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?

Well – I don’t know if we can figure much about the answer to this question. Why didn’t they hearken to the word of the Lord? Why didn’t they let the Lord’s word come into their hearts, so that their hearts would be softened?

Why would anyone keep from hearkening to the word of the Lord?

At this point, maybe it would have been really uncomfortable for Laman and Lemuel to hearken unto the word of the Lord. They would have had to make changes in their lifestyles, personalities, and beliefs if they had started listening and actually living according to the word of the Lord.

One of my favorite scriptures is in Alma. King Lamoni’s father (a descendent of Laman, actually) has just heard the message of the gospel from the missionary, Aaron. His response:

“And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.” – Alma 22:15

The humility and faith of King Lamoni’s father is unparalleled. He has heard the gospel. Actually, more than that, he has hearkened. It has stirred his soul, and now he has intention – he wants to change his life and live in a way that will correlate with the truths that he has learned.

He is so willing to change, that he will forsake his kingdom to know God and receive God’s joy.

Aaron’s advice is simple – pray. We have King Lamoni’s father’s prayer recorded in the scriptures:

“O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.” – Alma 22:18

Isn’t this utterly amazing. King Lamoni’s father was willing to give away all of his sins to know God. He wasn’t so filled with shame that he felt incapable of accessing the power of Christ’s Atonement. He wasn’t so attached to is identity that he wanted to nurture his sins. Instead, he was willing to simply give them up for something better.

How is it that Laman and Lemuel haven’t hearkened to the word of the Lord? They have heard it. But they love their sins more than the truth of the gospel.

How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?

This is where it gets even harder to understand. How did they forget?

Well, maybe it is good to revisit the situation. The sons of Lehi – Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam had just attempted for a second time to retrieve the plates of brass from Laban. This attempt included a plan to use all of their riches to “buy” the plates.

Laban loved the riches, but was unwilling to part with the plates. He ordered Lehi’s sons killed. They narrowly escaped – losing all of their precious things. Laman and Lemuel were so angry with Nephi that they started beating him up (Sam, too) with a rod.

Before it escalated too far, an angel of God stepped in. He rebuked Laman and Lemuel, then promised to deliver Laban into their hands.

Immediately after departing, we read Laman’s and Lemuel’s response:

“And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” – 1 Nephi 3:31

Laman and Lemuel were not impressed. They weren’t moved. They weren’t converted. This wasn’t an amazing experience that built their faith. They are filled with doubt – murmuring against the Heavenly being that just promised their success.

So – we can wonder, “how did they forget?” … but it’s easy to understand how they forgot when we realize that they didn’t care much about this manifestation in the first place.

How it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us?

Another thing that is kind of hard to really wrap our minds around. But then again, maybe we do this a lot, too.

I’m reminded of a story that is told by President Nelson:

“Recently, Sister Nelson and I enjoyed the beauty of tropical fish in a small private aquarium. Fish with vivid colors and of a variety of shapes and sizes darted back and forth. I asked the attendant nearby, “Who provides food for these beautiful fish?”

She responded, “I do.”

Then I asked, “Have they ever thanked you?”

She replied, “Not yet!”

I thought of some people I know who are just as oblivious to their Creator and their true “bread of life.” They live from day to day without an awareness of God and His goodness unto them.” – Russell M. Nelson

I think that Laman and Lemuel were a lot like those fish. And I think that even I am a lot like those fish. I receive these blessings that just flow from God. I have done nothing to deserve or earn them. I receive these blessings from Him just because I’m his daughter and He loves each of us with such an eternal, abiding love.

Sometimes, I remember to thank him.

Other times, unfortunately, I think that I just go on with my life – sometimes even complaining about things without even noticing of His goodness given unto me.

How did Laman and Lemuel forget? Well, they obviously knew that they had the plates – so it isn’t like this just didn’t happen. But I don’t think that they ever really paused to see the Lord’s hand in the whole experience in the first place. They were so busy being worried and angry, there was no room left in their hearts for faith or gratitude.

How is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will?

We don’t know what Laman and Lemuel were doing in their daily lives, but I’m willing to guess that they were not reading the scriptures. I’m going to venture to guess that they were not meditating, pondering, or praying.

I’m also willing to guess that – since they were the sons of Lehi – they might have been going through the motions, just because it was expected of them. I can’t be totally sure. But it would make to sense to me if this is something that they did – show up without really showing up.

If they are not praying with real intent, if they aren’t studying the scriptures for inspiration and guidance from the Holy Ghost, then how would they remember?

It is the scriptures that reminds Nephi that he can do whatever God commands. When going the last time to obtain the plates (after Laman and Lemuel started up their murmuring again). Nephi gives a sort of pep talk – They can do this because God is on their side, and God is mightier than all the earth. Then Nephi backs this up by bringing up the example of Moses – how Moses was able to bring the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry ground, escaping Pharaoh and his armies.

Nephi then says:

“Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.” – 1 Nephi 4:3

Because of Nephi’s time spent studying and pondering the scriptures – he remembered God’s power.

Additionally, after experiencing God’s power for himself, Nephi takes time to record these experiences and review them. He actively tries to remember his experiences with God – which help him to remember that the Lord is able to do all thing according to His will.

***
Because Laman and Lemuel haven’t turned to the Lord and have hard hearts, because Laman and Lemuel will not hearken to the Lord, because Laman and Lemuel will not recognize the blessings and manifestations that they have experienced in their lives, because Laman and Lemuel are like little fish that are “magically fed” and they refuse to be aware of the source of their blessings, because Laman and Lemuel refuse to learn from the scriptures and their own experiences they are rebellious. They continually frustrate the work and progression towards the promised land.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Nephi and Sam and the righteous people of Lehi’s (and now Ishmael’s) families, then Laman and Lemuel would have either gone back to Jerusalem and perished, or they would have perished in the wilderness.

***
It might be helpful to go through these questions and see if we are committing any of the sins that Laman and Lemuel committed that then caused them to be so far from understanding anything about God and the joy that He promises.

Laman and Lemuel were kind of dum dumbs, but I’m grateful that we have their examples in the Book of Mormon. I’m grateful that we can learn from the mistakes of others. I do not want to find myself like Laman and Lemuel – having forgotten my own spiritual experiences, miracles, etc. I want to always value God, His commandments, and my commitment to Him.

So, I’m grateful for the record of them and their experiences. I’m grateful that I can ask myself “Howzit?!” and that as I evaluate my own answers and habits, I can make changes that will guide me away from the examples of Laman and Lemuel and toward the examples of Nephi and Sam.

Returning Again to Jerusalem…The Benefit of Not Knowing the End from the Beginning – 1 Nephi 7:1-5

Read 1 Nephi 7:1-5 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Lehi finished prophesying, the Lord spake to Lehi – He wasn’t supposed to take his family into the wilderness alone, but that his children would need people to marry so thy could raise up seed unto the Lord.
  • The Lord commanded Nephi and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to bring Ishmael’s family into the wilderness.
  • Nephi and his brothers embark again toward Jerusalem.
  • Nephi and his brothers go to Ishmael’s house, gain favor with him, and speak the words of the Lord to him.
  • Ishmael’s heart is softened by the Lord. His family agrees to accompany Lehi’s family to the promised land.

Returning Again to Jerusalem

If you’ve been reading along in the Book of Mormon, then you know (back in chapter 2), Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. They are now somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula near the shores of the Red Sea. They have fled from Jerusalem for the safety of their father’s life. People in Jerusalem didn’t particularly like him because he testified of their wickedness and pled with them to repent – warning them that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed otherwise.

Lehi and his family left quickly one night. Then, after they make it a safe distance from Jerusalem, the Lord commands Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the plates of Brass.

Despite the whining of Laman and Lemuel, Lehi’s sons packed up and headed to Jerusalem – eventually finding themselves having accomplished that which was commanded them. They make it back to their father – who is in his tent in the wilderness. They have the plates of Brass and now they also have someone else – Zoram, originally the keeper of Laban’s treasury.

So – now Lehi and his family are ready to move on toward the promised land, right?

No.

In chapter 7, we read:

“And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 7:2

So – now Nephi and his brothers are headed back to Jerusalem again.

There are so many things that we can learn from this. I think that I’ll focus on one major point:

The Benefit of NOT Knowing the End from the Beginning

It’s so easy to be critical of the Lord (not smart, but easy to do). It’s easy to wonder “why?” Why did the Lord have Lehi leave, only to have his sons go back to get the plates? Why did the Lord have his sons get all the way back to their father in the wilderness, only to have them go back again to get Ishamel? It seems inefficient. (Though, I actually think that the Lord is perfectly efficient. More on that later, maybe).

And it doesn’t matter why the Lord had them go back. I’ve often found myself saying things like, “I don’t mind doing what the Lord wants me to do, I wish I just knew more of what that was.” It’s a temptation – to want to know the end from the beginning. What’s going to happen? Where will I end up? How many steps will this take?

I suppose that it would have been a temptation for Lehi to wonder – where is the promised land? What path are we taking? When will we finally make it there? It might have been a temptation to want to know what was in store – while saying “I’m willing to do whatever it takes, I just want to know what it is.”

Often, when we talk about knowing the end from the beginning, we frame it up as lacking faith. We sometimes say, “The Lord won’t tell us the end from the beginning because He is testing our faith.” I actually only think that this is partially true. I mean, of course we need to have faith, and these trials absolutely build our faith. But I don’t think that the Lord keeps us from knowing the end from the beginning just because he is trying our faith.

My opinion is that the Lord doesn’t tell us the end from the beginning because He is merciful.

And here’s what I mean – imagine if Nephi knew the end from the beginning. Let’s say that Lord said to him: Okay. first of all – traveling to the promised land is going to take you eight years. You’ll leave Jerusalem, no you’ll flee Jerusalem, and then you’ll turn back to get the scriptures.

Oh – you’ll get beat up, you’ll lose all of your possessions, and you’ll have to kill a man and dress up in his clothes to get the scriptures. Then, after you bring those scriptures back into the wilderness to your dad, don’t get too comfortable because you’ll be headed back to Jerusalem to talk Ishmael and his family into coming out to the wilderness.

You get the idea (there was so much more I could have written, too – eating raw meat! Building a boat. Breaking a bow! so much more…but you get the idea).

If Nephi had known more of the future that he would face, would he really have proceeded with the same kind of tenacity? With the same kind of diligence and discipline? Would he really have gone through the process? Or would he have tried to short-cut it?

If Lehi knew that he’d send his sons back to Jerusalem twice, would he have left Jerusalem in a rush? Or would he have tried to “hack” the process and go get Ishmael before they left? Would he have tried to get the plates from Laban before leaving – all with good intentions since his sons would have been sent back to do it anyway?

I tend to think of life like the game: The Legend of Zelda.

Opening_Zelda_Game_in_1986

Welcome to my childhood… 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, The Legend of Zelda is this old-school nintendo game. I had it when I was a kid. The game is a quest. You know the ultimate goal – to save Zelda and the entire land of Hyrule from the evil Gannon. In the game, you play the character called Link.

The thing about Link is that he is just some nobody in the kingdom. He doesn’t have any special powers, tools, knowledge or even wealth to make saving the kingdom even seem possible. BUT IT IS! The only thing Link has going for him is that he is willing.

Even though you know the ultimate goal – saving the kingdom – you can’t just go to the main castle and fight Gannon. At first, Link only has a small wooden sword. It can’t really stand up against minor enemies – let alone Gannon. So, instead, of facing him head-on, you have to follow the quest – you have to go to the first castle, then the next, and the next. It seems inefficient, why not just go and get Gannon from the beginning? But, by going through the various levels, by taking the time to explore and even “get off track,” you are actually being much more efficient because you are rewarded along the way. Maybe you pick up a boomerang. Maybe you pick up more strength or an “extra life.” You might get another sword -more powerful than the wooden one. Maybe you’ll get bombs, or a shield, or bows and arrows.

I think that this is the way the Lord works. He knows that we need more tools, experiences, knowledge, and power in our lives. In order for Lehi and his family to have succeeded in living in the Promised land, they needed the experience of traveling there. And if they had the map laid out before them – with every experience outlined, I think that they would have tried to short-cut the whole thing. They wouldn’t have picked up Laban’s sword if they had done it a different way.

The fact is – in order to really succeed in the promised land, Lehi and his family would need several things. We will find out more as we study the Book of Mormon, but so far we know they need:

  1. Their lives. If Lehi didn’t flee immediately, I think he would have been killed.
  2. The Brass Plates – this is critical for maintaining their language, their religion, and their culture.
  3. The Sword of Laban – this will prove useful later.
  4. Zoram – He was rescued from a wicked Jerusalem and would remain a friend with Nephi forever.
  5. Opportunities for Family – When Nephi procured the plates of Brass, the Lord whispered “it is better that one man should perish than a whole nation dwindle and perish in unbelief.” Laban did perish, and what would the purpose in his perishing be, if there was not a “nation” that would benefit from it? Going to the Promised land – and all of the things listed here (points 1-4) would have no purpose at all if Nephi’s family died within one generation. They needed spouses and a way to create a nation. If they wanted to succeed in the promised land then they needed families.

This is why the Lord is directing them as He is directing them. He has a long-term mindset. He doesn’t want them to merely make it to the promised land. He wants them to live after the manner of happiness once they get there. The various afflictions on their journey to the promised lands are like the “levels” and “adventures” in the Legend of Zelda – where they pick up the tools and expertise that they need in order to one day realize their goal.

This is the benefit of not knowing the end from the beginning. We are more willing to do it the Lord’s way when we don’t see the overwhelming tasks ahead of us. And we need to do things the Lord’s way if we want to really succeed.