You can read 1 Nephi 17:1-4 here.
Context and General Information
- Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they go in eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
- The women bore children in the wilderness.
- The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
- They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
- The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
- Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.
And Thus We See – God’s Commandments Must Be Fulfilled
When I started studying this topic yesterday, it took me a while to really understand what Nephi was trying to say. You can read part one here.
I guess it tells you a little bit about my personality that when I read God’s Commandments must be fulfilled, a little question mark went in my head. Does this mean we have no agency? Well, of course not! If there is anything that I know about Heavenly Father, it’s that He honors our agency to the end. He won’t even force us to accept His blessings!
Finally, I realized that perhaps this phrase isn’t so much about destiny or force, but it is about the trust we can put in God. We can trust that if we choose to keep His commandments, then they must be fulfilled.
Perhaps an illustration of what I mean is more helpful. Nephi was commanded to go to Jerusalem to get the plates of Brass. He obeyed. Though he didn’t know how he would finally get the plates, He knew that God wouldn’t give him a commandment that could not be fulfilled. He trusted that God isn’t like Lucy (from Peanuts). He isn’t going to set up the football, wait for us to wind up for the kick, and then pull the ball away at the last second leaving us flat on the ground.
God’s Commandments Must All Be Fulfilled = We CAN Trust in God!!!!
We can trust God – that not only does He give commandments, but He provides ways for us to keep the commandments. We read:
“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3
He Doth Nourish
While Nephi and his family were in the wilderness, they were nourished, physically. We read:
“And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men;…” – 1 Nephi 17:2
I really can’t even imagine giving birth to children and feeding them while in the desert wilderness of the Arabian Peninsula. When I had my children, life wasn’t necessarily perfect, but I had all of the comforts I needed for my health and for the health of my children – a bassinet, swing, vibrating chairs, nursing pump, bottles, Binkis, DISPOSABLE DIAPERS AND WIPES!!!!. I had food, milk, clean water, etc. If I had a craving, then I was able to either get it for myself, or I was able to cajole my husband into getting it for me (I can’t even think of how many pizzas he made while I was pregnant with my third daughter!). I wasn’t in the wilderness. I wasn’t in the desert of Saudi Arabia. I had it so much easier than the women of Lehi’s family!
Yet they kept the commandments. They kept the personal commandment – to go to the Promised Land. They kept the relatively more generic (though personally applied) commandment of multiplying and replenishing the earth.
And the Lord nourished them.
The Lord nourished them in His own way, too. This may not have been particularly pleasant, but it kept them nourished and safe from marauders. Because of the nourishment of the Lord, they were able to keep the commandments. They trusted in the Lord, that His commandments aren’t silly suggestions, but that they must be fulfilled, and they were.
If we will put our trust in God, then we will also be nourished and be made able to do what it is He has asked us to do.
And Strengthen Them
The nourishment that the Lord provided to Lehi and his family also strengthened them.
“Nourish and Strengthen.” It’s kind of a trite expression that I poke fun at. I always seem to say this in my prayers when praying over my food…that it will nourish and strengthen my body.
(Note: There have been times when I try to switch it up, and I truly don’t want my prayers to be a “vain repetition.” So – when I say “nourish and strengthen,” I try to actually mean it. And I try NOT to say this when I’m about to chow down on brownies or something. hahaha..)
Though “nourish and strengthen” may be an overused expression in our church culture, we don’t want to overlook it now.
The Lord will nourish us and strengthen us!
And provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them
Often we are given personal commandments that seem nearly impossible for us to complete. Think of Lehi and his family. Really, how on earth were they supposed to do what they did? There is no way that they could have successfully made it to the promised land without the tender mercies of the Lord. Recall what Nephi promised to show us through his record:
“…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – 1 Nephi 1:20
Often, keeping the personal commandments that God has given us, requires a bit of faith on our part. But if we will exercise that faith, then we can be sure that He will bless us with His tender mercies. These small blessings and “coincidences” will enable us to do whatever it is that He has directed us to do.
Elder Bednar taught:
“We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” – David A. Bednar
The Lord’s tender mercies are the providence that He gives us. He doesn’t command us and then leave us alone. He is such a loving God. He will help us to keep the very commandment He gave. I can’t leave out the quintessential scripture on the subject:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7
I think that in 1 Nephi 17:3, when Nephi states, And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled, he is trying to say that we can trust God. He is trying to say that there is no risk in keeping the commandments. Though they may not be easy, and we may suffer trials and afflictions, we can rest assured – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. God does support His children. He nourishes and strengthens them. He provides a way for us to keep His commandments. He will provide means for us while we sojourn in the “wilderness” of our lives.
We can trust Him.