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!!!!!!

Advertisements

Ye Would Not Murmur – 1 Nephi 16:1-6

You can read 1 Nephi 16:1-6 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi finished speaking to his brothers, they said that what he declared was hard for them – more than they could bear.
  • Nephi admitted that he knew that he spoke hard things against the wicked, according to the truth.
  • Nephi then exhorted his brothers to choose a righteous path, then they wouldn’t murmur and complain that the words of righteousness are hard for them.
  • Nephi’s brothers humbled themselves – so much so that Nephi even started to have great hope for them.
  • All these things were done while they dwelt in the valley Lemuel.

Ye Would Not Murmur

There are a lot of good nuggets of truth in this short scripture passage, but the one that keeps standing out to me is Ye Would Not Murmur because of the truth.

It has me thinking of murmuring. So – let’s figure it out for a second.

First, I thought I’d look in the Bible Dictionary…Nothing.

So then I checked the Guide to the Scriptures. There IS an entry for murmur…so let’s see what it says!

“To grumble and complain against God’s purposes, plans, or servants.” – Guide to the Dictionary: Murmur

It’s pretty simple.

I also noticed that murmuring is related to rebellion. Just for kicks, let’s read what The Guide to the Scriptures says about rebellion.

“Defying or opposing the Lord, including refusing to follow His chosen leaders and willfully disobeying His commandments.” – Guide to the Scriptures: Rebellion

Yikes! We don’t want to get into rebellion territory. Which is why it is important to understand murmuring. Murmuring often (but perhaps not always) leads to rebellion. On the other hand, someone who is rebelling against God will also always murmur against Him.

Okay. Let’s keep studying this.

So – a reminder – Murmuring: To grumble and complain against God’s purposes, plans, or servants.

Purposes

How might we complain or grumble against God’s purposes?

I suppose we should take a moment right now to remind ourselves of what God’s purposes are. I’ve done a little bit of research – in the Bible Dictionary, the Topical Guide, etc. And it led me to the scripture that I was already thinking of…

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

This is what we know. This is what has been revealed to us. Ultimately, the Lord’s purpose is helping US to have immortality and eternal life. That is a big-time macro level view of God’s purpose. But He also has “micro” purposes that we aren’t always aware of…

For example, as we read in 1 Nephi 9, Nephi was commanded to make two sets of plates. The larger one (which was the one that he was already making) was to contain the history of his people. The smaller one (which was the one that God commanded him to make in addition to the large plates) contained the ministry of Nephi and the things that were of most spiritual value.

It wasn’t all that easy for Nephi to write another set of records. I mean, it’s so easy to overlook this fact! I’ve got like 3 blogs. I don’t know how many journals. I can type around 80 words a minute. Writing more! hahaha! That is not that difficult. It would be harder for me to be commanded to write less!

Nephi didn’t have a laptop, a journal with fun and colorful pens. He didn’t have a typewriter. He wasn’t writing on a scroll of paper with a quill pen and ink. He was engraving his writings on metal! This would have been hard to do.

Not only would it have been hard, but the Lord didn’t exactly tell him why he needed to do it. Nope. The Lord simply commanded Nephi to do this thing. And Nephi explains:

“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

Even though Nephi didn’t understand God’s purpose, he didn’t murmur against it! It’s remarkable. There are times when we do understand God’s purpose, yet we murmur. Nephi didn’t know God’s purpose, nor did he murmur against it. Instead, Nephi rooted his faith in what he knew about his Heavenly Father: the purpose would be wise.

We have the advantage of hindsight, and we know the Lord’s purposes. The first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon (comprising of the record of Lehi, Nephi, and the others who kept historical records up until King Mosiah) were lost and destroyed. But we aren’t completely void of these early records. Instead, Nephi started writing that second record – of the ministry. He trusted in God’s purposes without grumbling. He obediently began a new record, and taught those who inherited these plates to record the ministry of the people. And because of His obedience, we still have his words.

I think that you could argue, still, that God’s purpose was our immorality and eternal life – that is why we need scriptures! To know how to inherit what God has. So it is probably best to keep this major purpose in mind, and feel confident that the little things – the little commandments – will serve a great purpose.

One last thing on purpose…what if we murmur against that purpose? The immortality and eternal life of man…I suppose it happens sometimes. I suppose that there are people who murmur against this beautiful purpose. Maybe they think it is foolishness – that there is no such thing as immortality or eternal life. Maybe they have such a hard time understanding God that they can’t even begin to grasp that He would be a God with a purpose.

Murmuring against God’s purpose probably doesn’t apply to most people. Most of us want to be happy! Most of us don’t want to be cast off from all light and life and joy. Most of us hear of God’s entire purpose, work, even glory, and we are filled with comfort and joy. I mean, hearing that God wants to bless me with His greatest blessings fills me with comfort and peace! I bet most people feel the same way when they learn God’s purposes.

Why would people think of murmuring against this purpose? I suppose it’s the same thing we’ve read before:

“…And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

Okay. I need to move on.

Plans

So, the next thing that we might grumble or complain about are God’s plans. I think that this is where the purposes of God are put into action. So, we may murmur against His beautiful plan – outright. It’s beautiful and hopeful!

But we forget that the purpose can’t be accomplished without plans and execution. And that is where we sometimes start to murmur.

Let’s think of another scriptural example.

When Nephi and his brothers went to obtain the plates of brass from Laban, they didn’t succeed after the first attempt. They were pretty depressed, even, when Nephi thought of a plan. They returned to Jerusalem, got all of their goods and precious things, and then approached Laban to essentially buy the plates. He refused. Laban chased them out of town and robbed them of all of their possessions in the meantime. Laman and Lemuel didn’t take this failure well. We read:

“And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.” – 1 Nephi 3:28

Laman and Lemuel had already been murmuring about this entire exercise – to get the plates. And yet, somehow they were cajoled into doing it. Then…after two attempts – they still don’t have the plates, have lost all of their precious possessions, they nearly lost their lives, they are being hunted by a powerful man in the city, and they have no more hope. How will they get the plates? Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising that they murmured.

They aren’t the only ones who have experienced this in life – choosing to obey God’s commandments, only to be faced with extreme difficulty and adversity.

It’s easy to forget the God that created us, and murmur against Him. When we murmur against His plans and commandments for our lives, we are also murmuring against His purpose. We forget that these plans and commandments and are given to us so we can succeed – in receiving immortality and eternal life. When we murmur at the onset of afflictions, we forget that God is capable of consecrating our afflictions for our gain. (back to that purpose again).

and finally…

Servants

This one can be the hardest, in my opinion.

It’s one thing to trust in God and even to trust in His plans. God is perfect. His purpose – it’s amazing. His plans, though difficult, have purpose, and He will strengthen us to overcome them.

But his servants…well they’re human.

It’s easy for us to judge them and murmur against them because they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They don’t have the big picture that God has. They may not have as much intelligence or experience as we do.

Not only that, but we are taught:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-40

Sad Experience! It’s the nature of almost all men to exercise unrighteous dominion. Yet God lets us, feeble humans, serve Him in so many capacities.

So – we need to sustain and love our leaders, rather than murmur against them. Does this mean that we need to blindly obey our priesthood leaders, point blank? Not really. It probably means that we need to understand their true roles, and then delineate between what they do and do not have dominion over.

But we can still sustain them in their calling, even when they might step on our toes. We can forgive, still make our choices, and still even support them to do what is in their mantel to do.

It is what God has asked us to do.

And, if we trust His purpose, then we’ll trust His plan. If we trust His purpose and plan, then we will not murmur against those whom He has called to execute His plans.

This is really short, and I’m sure that we could write so much more about this. I don’t want to say that all leaders are perfect! They aren’t! I don’t think that we should just blindly say, “we must obey the priesthood!” Because there have been times when I’ve had leaders that exercised unrighteous dominion. There have been times when I’ve needed to raise my voice – not in anger or in contention, but lovingly and persuasively, to show that I truly sustained my leader – we are on the same team with the same purpose.

I know that it isn’t always black and white. I know it gets grey, but I also know that there is a way for us to sustain our leaders, even when they aren’t perfect. If it wasn’t possible, then the Lord would have organized our church differently.

***

I’ve got to wrap this up. We don’t want to murmur! I don’t want to murmur! It is a sure path to apostasy.

So – what’s the antidote? As usual – humility. Prayer. Trusting in God. When we know the God that created us, we will believe Him. We will adore, praise and worship Him. We won’t even think to murmur because we love Him.

***

Thanks for reading today…I didn’t have time to proofread. Please don’t judge me!!! And remember, this is a short look at a huge subject. What I’ve written isn’t complete. It’s just a starting point.

The Power of the Lord Was with Them – 1 Nephi 13:1-19

You can read 1 Nephi 13:1-19 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Angel told Nephi to look.
  • Nephi looked and he saw the many nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
  • Nephi saw the formation of a great church.
  • Corruption was rampant.
  • Nephi saw that a man – of the Gentile nations – was “wrought” upon him and he went forth on the ocean – to the promised land.
  • Many of the Gentiles then came to the promised land. The seed of Nephi’s brethren were scattered and smitten by the Gentiles.
  • The Gentiles prospered in the land.
  • The Gentiles who had gone out of their mother countries humbled themselves. They battled against their mother countries, and they won. These poor settlers of the Americas (the promised land) were no longer captives of their “mother countries” (European countries).

The Power of the Lord Was with Them

This section of scripture is an interesting prophecy that Nephi receives – of what will happen in relatively modern times – the “discovery” of the Americas and then the migration of people from Europe (and other continents) to the American continents.

It’s interesting, and worth investigating, but that really isn’t my focus for today. This isn’t a comprehensive study of the Book of Mormon – and what it is about. Instead, I’m really studying the Book of Mormon for me. And instead of keeping my scripture journal private, I’m sharing it here on the blog with all of you.

So – here’s what I’m interested in today:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.” – 1 Nephi 13:16

So – back to the context for a minute, then I think we can learn more.

The Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity – the people who came to the Americas from Europe – did humble themselves before the Lord. After doing this, the power of the Lord was with them. How was this manifest? Well, let’s just think about it for a minute.

The scriptures then teach:

“And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.” – 1 Nephi 13:17-19

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an American. So, I can’t help but read this with the framework of being from the U.S. I can’t help but think of the Redcoats, the Patriots, and the revolutionary war. I can’t help but think of a world-class navy that was defeated by a rag-tag but blessed group of men who wanted freedom from taxation and control by a faraway land. I can’t help but think of 1776, the Declaration of Independence, and then the following Revolutionary War.

I mean, I used to live in the Philadephia area. I used to live in Boston. I still have family in both cities. When I read these scriptures, I can’t help but think of the absolutely miraculous history of our country, and I can echo what was taught to Nephi – The gentiles who had come to the Americas humbled themselves before the Lord, and the power of the Lord was with them.

Humbled Before the Lord

So, we learn that the Gentiles humbled themselves before the Lord. What does this mean, exactly?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that they were prayerful. I can’t think of anything that shows more humility than true, honest, faithful, meaningful, intentional prayer. (I know – there were a lot of adjectives there. But really, I mean it! I don’t want to be mistaken. I’m not talking about the things that we sometimes “say” and then call a prayer. I’m talking about true communion with God.

And I want to openly admit, right here, that I’m the worst when it comes to communion with God through prayer. My prayers are not great right now. I say them, yes…but sometimes they may be more on the “vain repetition” end of the spectrum rather than humble prayer.

Another thing that comes to mind is the following scripture:

“19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, we will put off the natural man. When we humble ourselves, we become as a child (which, by the way WE ARE! we are His children, and when we take the time to remember that, it becomes more natural to accept, love, and trust our Father in Heaven as a Father in Heaven!

The Power of the Lord

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, then we become open to having His power with us. (WE MUST BE HUMBLE!) Humility isn’t a hack. So you can’t “act” humble and then expect His power.

It’s interesting, too. I don’t know how to say it, so hopefully my train of thought will be easy enough to follow. I’ve had the following scripture on my mind for the past few days:

“3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—” – Doctrine and Covenants 45:3

In this scripture, we learn that the Savior is our advocate with the Father and that He is pleading our cause.

An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. In this case, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the Creator is our Advocate. Which means that we are His cause. And He is publicly supporting our Cause – to His Father.

The Gentiles, or European settlers humbled themselves to the Lord, the Advocate, and He pleaded their cause – freedom from their “mother countries” – to His Father in Heaven.

And, we have hindsight. We know it worked. We know that against all odds, The United States defeated the British. This led to nearly every other country in the Americas eventually winning their freedom from the European countries that had colonized them. We know that the power of the Lord was with them! They succeeded!

Personal Application

I’m so grateful for this example. I’m not trying to be so US-centric here, but it is just the history that I am the most familiar with since it is my country. If I was from another country, I’m sure I would have another story to share here. Anyway that doesn’t matter.

I’m so grateful for this example because I have my own prayers that need to be answered. There are miracles that I’m praying for. I think that we all have them. And this example – of the gentiles defeating their mother countries – is probably one of the most extreme examples of God’s power that we can find.

The United States militia should not have defeated the British. It wasn’t their experience, technology, or resources that helped them win the Revolutionary war. It was their hearts – that had been humbled to the Lord. The Lord strengthened them.

Now, this didn’t happen magically. The Revolutionary Patriots didn’t just say a prayer, “Gosh…I hope we can be free” and then go on with their day just as they had done the day before.

No – not even close. These patriots threw tea into a harbor. They declared their independence. They fought. Many of these patriots humbled themselves before God and pleaded their cause to the Advocate – with their own blood.

We can’t think that we can just say “I’m humble…now give me what I want.” We have to show our humility through our words (prayers) and our deeds (an extension of our prayers).

And when we do, we can rest assured that our Advocate will plead our cause, and that His power will be with us. We will succeed.

***
PS…this is another un-edited, un-proofread blog post. Maybe I’ll come and look at it later. For now, I need to publish and scoot. So please be understanding!
 

1 Nephi 1:16-20

I’m still thinking about how I want to organize these blog posts…Not sure yet, so bear with me.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is making an abridgment of the record of his father. Which meant that his father made a record.
  • After the Lord showed Lehi the marvelous vision as recorded in 1 Nephi 1:1-15, Lehi then begins to share the message with others in Jerusalem.
  • The Jews are angry with Lehi, they want to kill him.
  • Despite this anger, Nephi will show us in the record that follows that the Lord’s tender mercies are over those whom he hath chosen – unto the power of dliverance.

005 Lehi Preaching to the People in Jerusalem

Analysis, Observations, and Application

Now that we have a few points on this block of scripture, let’s try to understand it and make some meaning.

In 1 Nephi 1, we read:

“And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.

And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him…;” – 1 Nephi 1:19-20

When I read about this, I think that I can understand why the Jews might not like the message all that much. Lehi is testifying of their wickedness and abominations.

Have you ever been corrected? I have been. And I’m not even talking about being corrected by a teacher or a parent, or the usual. But by someone who loves me and has my best interest. I’ve been corrected by friends and my spouse even my children. It is not easy.

Even when their isn’t much on the line – say when I was in college and I wrote essays or creative pieces of work. It wasn’t always easy to be critiqued and corrected.

You have to eliminate pride at first.

And the kind of correction that Lehi is doing with the people of Jerusalem isn’t about the mechanics or grammar of their essay. It isn’t about writing better transition or using a more active voice. He is telling them that they are doing wicked things that will result in the destruction of their lives as they know it.

If they choose to listen to Lehi, a lot is on the line. It’s not like they just have to correct a few grammar mistakes. They might have to completely change their lives.

I can see why they might not be receptive to Lehi.

Not only would it be hard to hear this message, but Lehi’s message is not the majority opinion of the culture of that time. No doubt it sounds a bit unconventional or maybe “old fashioned.” His is the only voice telling them they are wicked in a world that is shouting the opposite message.

It sounds familiar. It might have been hard to accept Lehi’s message if you were in Jerusalem.

That being said, Lehi said God’s message. And if the people were willing to listen with the Spirit, then the would have heard Lehi’s message loud and clear. In fact, not only would they have heard Lehi’s message, but it would have become a message of hope and joy rather than condemnation.

Lehi’s message was a testimony of their wickedness, yes. It was also a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem because of their wickedness (which prophecy was fulfilled not many years later). Additionally, Lehi’s message was of the Messiah – the hope and redemption of the world.

If the people of Jerusalem would have chosen to hear this message, then they could have been filled with joy. They could have made another choice. Instead, they were stirred up into anger. They wanted to kill Lehi.

The good news of the gospel was a message that angered them!

Think about this – how do I react to the words and warnings of the prophets? Do I mock and jeer at their message as if it is old fashioned, unintelligent, or just plain wrong? Is my heart open to the Spirit so that I can hear the message that the Spirit wants me to know?

This example of Lehi’s happened on a big scale, but I think that it happens on smaller scales every day – if we will let it. If we will be humble, then the Lord will refine us. Though painful in the moment, we can remember that ultimately such refinement points us to the Hope of our Redeemer. In other words, though painful for a moment, the pain gives way to great joy.

Recently, in my life, the Lord has been giving my husband and I the opportunity to go through refinement – both individually and as a couple. It isn’t always very easy. In fact, the other night, we went on a date that was relatively painful.

But, thankfully, because my husband is close to the Spirit and because I am trying to also be close to the Spirit, the Lord helped us to see our situation with discernment. He helped us to see that our flaws aren’t something to be ashamed of. But that we can accept these flaws as ours, look to our Savior, and be healed.

Though the date night started off a little crummy, instead of being like the people of Jerusalem – instead of getting emotional and prideful – we turned to one another, the Spirit helped us to see clearly and it comforted us. We drew together in love, and we ended up having a really great date that has helped us to draw closer and have more love and joy in our lives.

Lehi’s message, though it took a tone of correction, was ultimately a message of joy. That is God’s message for each of us – and we can be filled with joy if we will hear it with the comfort and discernment of the Spirit.

Facing Adversity: Lehi, Laman/Lemuel, and Nephi (1 Nephi 2:7,12,16)

I’m reading the Book of Mormon again. This time, as I read, I’ll be studying it with an emphasis on overcoming obstacles. (I recently read The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, and Im pretty fascinated by what I learned there.

As I read The Obstacle is the Way, I saw many gospel parallels, and thought I should read the Book of Mormon with this framework. So – here we go. Starting straightaway – with Lehi, Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel.

Lehi: Gratitude

” And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.

And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.” – 1 Nephi 2:6-7

Some background. Lehi, the patriarch of his family, had been a prophet (contemporary with Jeremiah) in Israel. He prophesied of Jerusalem’s destruction – unless they would repent. The people didn’t particularly care for this message. They wanted to kill Lehi.

It wasn’t Lehi’s lot in life to stay in Jerusalem as Jeremiah did. Instead, he was directed, by God, to flee Jerusalem, and that God would guide him to a promised land.

Three days into his journey he has not arrived into the promised land. He really has no idea what he is about to face. He is in the wilderness and has left everything behind. (Oh – and Lehi was rich, so he left a lot behind). Jerusalem has not been destroyed. It would be easy to complain, to think I must be crazy. To second guess yourself and God.

Instead Lehi is grateful. He prays to God. I think that this is a key to successfully navigating difficulty and adversity in life. Instead of choosing the easy option (which is impatience and complaining), when we take the time to be grateful, we open our hearts to opportunity, and above all we broaden our perspective. A broad perspective is key to navigating obstacles and adversities well.

Laman and Lemuel: Lack of Perspective

“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

Laman and Lemuel instantly react with complaint and murmuring. They don’t want to leave the comforts of their home – even though a promised land awaits them. They think that their dad is crazy. They want to go back to a comfortable life.

Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a comfortable life! Their lives were in danger – if not from the Jews in Jerusalem who wanted to kill Laban – then, by the coming Babylonians who would destroy Jerusalem later. They were destined, as we all are, for some kind of adversity or another. The journey to the promised land, though arduous, could be argued as “easier” than an alternative.

Yet, Laman and Lemuel react – they complain and murmur. And Nephi explains why – because they did not know the dealings of that God who had created them. They didn’t understand the purpose or role of adversity in life. They didn’t have any perspective. They were selfish and prideful.

Nephi: Not Perfect, but Humble

“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

I love this example of Nephi here. We often think of Nephi as the culmination of what he is. We think of all that he did – from the outset. Many people who grow up as Mormons know about Nephi and sing songs about him. He is courageous. He is strong (large in stature!). He helps his family cross a sea. He is nearly mythical.

But if we take a second to really read, we see that Nephi is ordinary. He trusts his old man. But going out into the wilderness is still a real challenge – and who knows how long they will be in the wilderness. Nephi trusts his dad, but also wants to know for himself.

This desire is the first part of humility. Having a desire to obtain knowledge is an important admission: you don’t know it all. This kind of humility is the only way to actually gain knowledge. We won’t seek for that we aren’t even aware that we lack.

So – Nephi is humble enough to ask the Lord. And when he does, the Lord proceeds to soften his heart. I don’t know how the Lord did this, but the result is even more trust in the revelation that his father had.

And this process is the foundation on which Nephi will build – it will give him strength to carry on through the deserts of the middle east, through the threat of death by Laban, through starvation, through the task of building a boat, through sailing across the world, through building up a new society.

***
We learn a bit by these examples. Be grateful, Be humble, Get a perspective. When we do these things, we will be given a better capacity to overcome any obstacle that the Lord sees fit for us to face in our lives.

Pride – A Block to Our Happiness (Alma 42:30)

In Alma 42, Alma is still teaching his son, Corianton. He says something very interesting to his son:

“O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.” – Alma 42:30

Pride so often stands in the way of happiness.

Instead of changing, so many people excuse their sins by denying the justice of God, instead. I can see why this is a common pattern, but it doesn’t work!

We can deny God and His justice all we want, but our denial of God doesn’t make God non-existent. We can deny God and His justice all we want, but we are still subject to it.

Think of it this way. We may “disagree” with gravity. We may even let our pride in the matter wrap and distort our minds so much that we then deny the law of gravity. Despite such denial, if we stood at the edge of a cliff and jumped, we’d soon find that we were still subject to it.

Instead of denying God’s justice as a way to “justify” ourselves, we ought to simply accept the justice of God. The beauty of accepting God’s justice is that we can also accept the companion blessing He has offered us through Christ: His mercy.

Through accepting God’s justice and Christ’s atonement, we then will humble ourselves to let Christ’s Atonement take place in our lives. We do this by submitting to Him – by being righteous. And the result…HAPPINESS!!!

Denial gets us nowhere. Accept. Be humble. Obey. Be happy!

Humility and Joy (Alma 22:15)

The Spirit lets us feel joy. I’m not going to take the time to prove this fact right here in this post. Feel free to read throughout the rest of my blog. Better yet, read the Book of Mormon.

For now, we’ll examine the quick example of King Lamoni’s father. He’s one of my very favorite people in the Book of Mormon.

King Lamoni’s father was humbled by Ammon when they ran into each other on the road. (Ammon and King Lamoni were on their way to Middoni. King Lamoni’s father was on his way to see King Lamoni.) King Lamoni’s father was upset with his son and with Ammon. He attempted to take Ammon’s life, but ended up being compromised by Ammon’s strength. In an attempt to be freed from Ammon’s grip, King Lamoni offered up half his kingdom.

Ammon wasn’t looking for power or land. He simply wanted to teach the gospel, and he had developed a true friendship and love for King Lamoni. So, he asked that King Lamoni’s land be protected and that he lived in peace.

King Lamoni’s father was shocked – he didn’t expect to hear such a charitable response. His heart began to be softened and humbled.

***

Later, Aaron travels up to King Lamoni’s father to share the gospel. King Lamoni’s father had been thinking a lot about this experience and was already becoming more prepared to be receptive to the gospel message. He listened to Aaron’s message – which was the gospel and basic scripture stories.

It seems like King Lamoni’s father was becoming aware that though he had so much, he didn’t have any joy. After listening to Aaron’s message, we read:

“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

We can learn so much from King Lamoni’s father’s tender and humble example!

The Spirit of God enables us to feel joy. And if we aren’t feeling joy, then we have to do just as King Lamoni’s father did. We must ask ourselves what we can do to obtain the Spirit of God, and then be filled with joy.

This is really applicable on every level. As I read this verse, I thought of the things that troubled me, and realized that in one way or another I’m allowing them to trouble me. I can choose to ask God what I can do to receive the Spirit and be filled with joy.

Men and women are that they might have joy. We can have joy. When we choose to look within ourselves and root out the wicked spirit that blocks the Spirit of God, then we can be filled with joy.

Humility as the Answer to Race Relations and Violence (Mosiah 21:6-15)

In Mosiah 21, the people of Limhi (Nephites) are living under Lamanite rule – according to an arrangement that had been made between the king of the Lamanites and Limhi.

In case you are not familiar, the people of Limhi are Nephites. They are a different race than the Lamanites. The Nephites and Lamanites are all descendents from a common family – the Nephites, but over the years, they separated and they also changed physically. Their skin colors are different. They also often fought with each other – a rivalry started between the brothers (Nephi and Laman) hundreds of years before.

So – the people of Limhi are living subject to Lamanite rule. And racism grows. The Lamanites are annoyed with the people of Limhi, but because of the arrangement made between kings, they can’t kill the Nephites. So, they oppress the Nephites.

This oppression is described as follows:

“Now they durst not slay them, because of the oath which their king had made unto Limhi; but they would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass—” – Mosiah 21:3

The people of Limhi are getting frustrated with this oppression, and they convince their king that they need to retaliate. So, he agrees.

The Lamanites beat the people of Limhi, did drive them back, and kill many.

This loss results in worse race relations and a great sorrow and mourning among the people of Limhi. The crying of the people grows to a fever pitch – and the people of Limhi decided that they needed to go again to the Lamanites and fight.

The Lamanites, however, beat the people of Limhi again, did drive them back, and kill many.

This next loss results in even worse racer relations, and sorrow and mourning among the people of Limhi. Again, they complain until they approach the king and go up against the Lamanites once again.

And the Lamanites, beat the people of Limhi, did drive them back, and kill many.

This is insane.

This is such a sad and terrible time in the history of both the Lamanites and the People of Limhi. Mourning, anger, and frustration motivate these people. They are proud and wicked. They don’t turn to the Lord. Instead, they try to fight for themselves, and their misery only increases.

It sounds sadly familiar.

Recently, we have seen many divisions in our country. Racial tension and aggression seems to be multiplying. People are rioting and too many people are dying. The solution that seems to prevail is more retaliation, more fighting, and more mourning and anguish.

How do we stop this? Well, the same way that the People of Limhi did. They humbled themselves. In Mosiah, we read:

“And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.

And now the Lord was slow to hear their cry because of their iniquities; nevertheless the Lord did hear their cries, and began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites that they began to ease their burdens; yet the Lord did not see fit to deliver them out of bondage.” – Mosiah 21:14-15

Finally, the Lord heard their cries, and he softened the hearts of the Lamanites. Though the people of Limhi weren’t yet delivered out of bondage, they were prospered by degrees. Though they were still subject to the Lamanites, they were not dying anymore. They weren’t wailing and howling at the staggering losses of life because they weren’t experiencing these losses anymore.

This resonates with me now. My heart is heavy. Police have killed people. People have killed police. We seem to want to sit and point fingers at one another – while the killing, animosity, and mourning continues. It makes no sense.

These problems we experience today are the results of a wicked and perverse generation. On both sides. But we don’t have to be. We don’t have to embrace sin. We don’t have to be deceived.

Instead, we can learn a lesson from the People of Limhi – who were in bondage. Maybe today we could say, “they had every right to fight.” But what good did that fighting do? It just hurt them even more. We can learn that the most effective way to “fight” for our liberty and for peace is through humility. It is when we humble ourselves to God that we will receive His blessings and then ultimately achieve peace and freedom.