And Thus We See – Part 2 – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

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!

 

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Seems impossible, but this weed is growing out of a brick wall. The Lord can do the same with 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.

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And Thus We See – Part One – 1 Nephi 17:1-4

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

Nephi quickly relates how his family journeyed again in the wilderness. They started going a new direction (eastward), and they waded through much affliction in the wilderness.

Things were hard.

But Nephi also teaches us a lesson:

“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

The phrase and thus we see lets us in on the fact that Nephi is trying to emphasize a lesson that they have learned. Remember, this account is taken from the Small Plates that Nephi was commanded to make later on. The small plates contain only the things that please God – the ministry of Nephi and his people. Nephi has left out many details and many experiences that he and his family went through. He is sharing the highlights so we can learn the lessons that he learned in his life.

So – here’s a bit lesson that Nephi learned. He wants us to realize that, and he begins “And thus we see.”

The Commandments of God Must Be Fulfilled

I wish I knew better on what this meant. I mean, I get the idea – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. But does this mean that it comes at the expense of our agency?

I don’t think so.

As I think about it, the concept “many are called, but few are chosen,” comes up. We read it in the scriptures:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36

Okay- so this is interesting. We read that many are called, but few are chosen. And then the question comes up – why are they not chosen??? The Lord answers –

  • because their hearts are set upon the things of the world
  • They aspire (not to keep the commandments of God) to the honors of men
  • The Rights of the priesthood are connected with the powers of heaven
  • The powers of heaven are controlled by principles of righteousness.

Elder Bednar taught:

“I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar

What does this have to do with the commandments of God must be fulfilled?

Well – I think that there are times when this is true – His commandments must be fulfilled. I kind of think that if Lehi chose not to listen to God’s call to flee Jerusalem, then the Lord would have led out another family. His work will roll forth. If Joseph Smith hadn’t chosen to listen, then I think another would have been sent to do Joseph’s work.

This is totally my own personal opinion, I realize. I don’t know if there is any doctrinal soundness to it, and I really can’t take the time to look it up right now.

The commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem for a promised land had a much broader purpose than he could have ever imagined. Yes, it would be a blessing to him and his family immediately. They wouldn’t die in Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is gonna be big. A lot of people will die. Those that don’t die will be taken to Babylon as slaves. This period in Jewish history isn’t pretty. So, leading Lehi out of Jerusalem would make an immediate impact on Lehi’s life. Though they traveled in the wilderness for 8 years, it was an immediate blessing.

(By the way – based on how quickly Lehi fled and how he sent his family back to Jerusalem repeatedly, but didn’t go himself – I think that his life was in immediate danger. I don’t think that Lehi would have lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem. I think that the people would have killed him before that happened. They already sought his life.)

So – the commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem definitely had an immediate blessing. It was also a blessing to them eight years later when they all actually arrived at the promised land.

But what Lehi couldn’t have fully grasped is how his choice to obey would impact generations of his own seed and then millions of others.

Lehi’s Own Seed
Lehi’s own seed was blessed. The Nephite civilization lasted for about 800 years. The Lamanite civilization ebbed and flowed for that length of time and longer. And still, there are remnants of the Lamanites living now.

During the heights of the civilization, however (from 600 BC to 400 AD), they experienced many blessings. They had the gospel, they saw the Savior, they had riches, they had comforts, roads, etc. Lehi’s decision to keep God’s commandments and flee into the wilderness blessed his posterity for a long, long time.

Millions of Others
I am blessed. And I’m among many others who are blessed because of Lehi’s decision to obey the voice of the Lord. Without Lehi’s choice to keep the commandments – to flee Jerusalem, to have his sons retrieve the plates, to have his sons persuade Ishmael and his family to accompany them, to journey in a difficult wilderness, to board a boat and sail across the world – we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon today.

I truly cannot imagine my life without the influence of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me light, guidance, comfort, and hope. It has helped to calm my soul in times of difficulty. It has brought me to a better understanding of my loving Savior.

Because of the Book of Mormon, I have a knowledge and testimony of my Savior.

The Lord knew this. He prepared this. His commandment – for Lehi to flee Jerusalem – needed to be fulfilled in order for His work to be done. This commandment would help to set off events for the gathering of Israel. This is a major part of the Lord’s work.

So – His commandments must be fulfilled. That’s the way it is. They must be! And we have a choice – are we going to be a part of it or not?

And, I think that that the real point that Nephi was getting at – the Lord doesn’t command lightly. He doesn’t give us suggestions and then raise his hands and shrug his shoulders when a challenge comes up.

He gives us a commandment, and He has a way for them to be fulfilled.

So – If we are willing to keep God’s commandments, we can trust that they must be fulfilled. We can trust that this means He will provide a way for them to be fulfilled. We can trust that He isn’t a God that commands in vain.

More on this concept tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Context and General Information

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

Confidence that Comes from Keeping the Commandments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not faith.

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

***

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

Nephi stated:

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

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

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

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

Mountain Tops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context and General Information

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

Keeping the Commandments Gives us Confidence

I love the following scripture:

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

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

So far, these commandments included:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

You can read more about Nephi and personal commandments here.

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

It would feel really good.

***

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

We read:

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

The White House PA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

An Interesting Prompting – 1 Nephi 4:10-18

You can read today’s scripture block – 1 Nephi 4:10-18 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is “constrained” by the Spirit that he should kill Laban.
  • Nephi shrank at the command.
  • The Spirit explained that the Lord had delivered Laban into the hands of Nephi.
  • Nephi reasons – Laban had sought to take Nephi’s life and had stolen all of their property.
  • Again, the Lord’s Spirit tells Nephi to slay Laban, that the Lord had delivered Laban into Nephi’s hands.
  • Nephi remembered what the Lord had said to him in the wilderness – that if they kept the commandments, they would prosper in the promised land.
  • Nephi realized that they couldn’t keep the commandments if they didn’t have the law. And he knew that the law of Moses was engraved on the plates of brass.
  • Nephi knew that the Lord truly had delivered Laban into his hands – so he obeyed the strange prompting of the Spirit and killed Laban.

BAM!

The story of Nephi getting the plates of brass – and being commanded to kill Laban is one of the reasons I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith didn’t just write it out of thin air.

Why is that? Well, only four chapters into the Book of Mormon, the reader is asked a lot – to believe that Nephi was commanded to kill. This is pretty intense! And why, if Joseph Smith was simply writing the Book of Mormon, why would he include a story like this – that asked so much faith of the reader?

I know that Joseph Smith didn’t write the Book of Mormon. I know that he translated it. The Book of Mormon is an inspired work. It is true, and it asks us to exercise a little bit of faith – right off the bat!

Here are a few thoughts…

One – Constrained
Nephi stated:

“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.” – 1 Nephi 4:10

The word that stands out to me in this verse is constrained. In order to understand more about this experience of Nephi’s, it is helpful to feel very comfortable with the definition of “constrained.”

When I’m trying to understand a word in the scriptures, I do a few things. First of all, I look at the scripture to see if there is a footnote.

1 Nephi 4 footnote

There is a footnote on the word “constrain.”

So – first of all, you can see that there is, indeed, a footnote on the word “constrain.” It’s a good starting place for us to understand it better.

If you are ever feeling puzzled or even troubled by something in the scriptures, then search. The Lord does expect us to have faith, but it isn’t blind. He has pleaded with us to seek, ask, and knock. And He has promised us with insight in return of our efforts.

So – “constrain” has a footnote…here is the cross-reference:

1 Nephi 4 Cross Reference

This is the cross-reference.

For more context on this scripture, The Lord has commanded King Saul to smite and destroy the Amalekites and all that they have.

He was constrained to kill the wicked. You can read more about this experience for yourself in 1 Samuel 15:3, but it helps to understand that the Lord constraining a person to slay a wicked person is not unprecedented.

The next thing I do when I’m trying to understand something is look in the Study Helps of the scriptures. You can search the word “constrain” in any of the appropriate study helps.

I found the following in the topical guide:

1 Nephi 4 Topical Guide Entry

Topical Guide Entry for “Constrain”

If you only scan through these entries, you start to get an idea of what “constrain” mean. You begin to see that Nephi’s spiritual prompting wasn’t a mere impression. It was very strong – maybe even forceful.

Finally, a very underutilized tool is the dictionary. Even if you feel like you understand the word contextually, looking up the definition is so helpful.

The dictionary defines constrain to “compel or force someone to a particular course of action.”

Now we have a better understanding of what was happening with Nephi.

Being constrained would have been helpful for Nephi – he could easily recognize that this was the Spirit telling him to do it. Nephi was confident in his spirituality. He didn’t want to kill Laban. And he knew what the Spirit felt like.

Of course, Nephi isn’t easily compelled. He shrinks.

Two – Nephi Reasons

We read:

“And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.” – 1 Nephi 4:11

Again, the spirit tells Nephi to slay Laban.

Nephi is trying to understand this commandment. So he reasons – Nephi knew that Laban had tried to murder him. Laban was wicked, he had most likely broken other laws worthy of death. Finally, Laban had stolen all of their property.

Given the culture and laws of the time, Nephi might have been justified in killing Laban. Nephi would not have been committing a premeditated murder. Instead, he happened upon Laban – who he had already fled from because of the threat of death. Laban would have killed Nephi if he had the chance – and why? Because Laban wanted Nephi’s possessions.

I’m not an expert on Ancient Jewish Law, but I did come across this:

1 Nephi 4 Book of Mormon Student Manual

From the Book of Mormon Institute Student Manual

Nephi didn’t live in the U.S. or any modern country. This command to kill Laban didn’t go contrary to his government’s laws. Though Nephi wasn’t very comfortable with killing Laban, it wasn’t because the action would have been illegal. It’s because he was a faithful man. It’s because he always tried to live the commandments. He didn’t expect to do this in order to get the plates. We already have seen the ideas that Nephi came up with – ask for the plates, buy the plates. It didn’t cross his mind to commit violence for them.

And, interestingly enough – even though Nephi could have been justified by the law to kill Laban, this is NOT why he did. 

Nephi Receives Spiritual Insight and Spiritual Motivation

We read:

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” – 1 Nephi 4:12-13

Again, the Lord prompts Nephi to kill Laban. This time the Spirit gives Nephi another insight – that the lord slays the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. The Lord has every right to do so. And, as we read earlier, He had commanded it earlier in Jewish history. I’m sure that Nephi was already aware of this.

Laban had been given agency to make the right decision. Now, he had to live according to the consequences of his choices. We only see a small snapshot into Laban’s person. He may have done much more to be worthy of death.

But this isn’t what strikes Nephi. Nephi knows that he is going to a promised land. They will be starting a civilization, and I’m sure it might be hard for Nephi to wrap his head around that idea. But Nephi knows that in order for the Lord’s righteous purposes to be fulfilled, he needs to slay Laban.

Nephi then beings to realize:

“And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.

Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.

And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.

And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.

Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” – 1 Nephi 4:14-18

Nephi is now spiritually convinced that the best course of action is to follow the unconventional prompting of the Spirit. He slays Laban. And because of this decision, he saves his whole society.

Some people might be critical of this story, but it is helpful to look at Nephi – he is never violent – even to his brothers! They mock him, they tie him up, they threaten him, and he just takes it. He strictly obeys the commandment of God.

***

Since this is a public study of this scripture, I also want to say that – for the most part – I don’t think that the Lord will compel most of us to slay anyone. We can’t use the Lord to justify any wicked deed. But Nephi’s deed wasn’t wicked.

Some of us may serve in the military, where we will be commanded to slay, and it will be justified to do so. Some of us might find ourselves in situations where we need to protect ourselves – even at the life of another. Both of these instances are legal within our judicial system. Nephi’s command was legal in his judicial system.

We must learn to be like Nephi – able to discern what the Spirit is teaching and then willing to do it.

Risks and Even More Failure – 1 Nephi 3:22-31

Context and General Information

  • Nephi and his brothers go down to their home in Jerusalem and gather up all of their precious things.
  • They take their stuff to Laban to essentially “buy” the brass plates.
  • Laban sees their property, lusts after it, then kicks Nephi and his brothers out and sends soldiers after them.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi escape, but all of their precious things fall into the hands of Laban.
  • Laman and Lemuel are angry with Nephi after this failed attempt. They say mean things to him and Sam, and then they beat up Nephi and Sam with a rod.
  • An angel appears, stops Laman and Lemuel from beating Nephi and Sam, and then promises that if they try again, the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands.
IMG_4172

This picture has nothing to do with the post really, but it is pretty…

Risk

And when I write risk, I mean big risk.

Nephi, earlier in chapter 3, spends a bit of time persuading his brothers to try again to obtain the plates. He comes up with an idea – to “buy” the plates from Laban. They have resources – the precious things that they left behind when they fled into the wilderness.

We read:

“And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.

And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.

And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things.” – 1 Nephi 3:22-24

It’s so easy to overlook this risk because (if you are Mormon and if you are familiar with the story of Nephi) we know the ending. We know that Nephi will get the plates of brass. We know that Nephi and his family will make it to the promised land. We know that Nephi will live after the manner of happiness.

But those successes come later.

In the moment, when Nephi thought of the idea to go back, gather up all of their gold, silver, and precious things, Nephi didn’t know – other than God had promised – how, if, or when they would get the plates, make it to the promised land, etc.

So, this is a big risk. Or at least if you look at it without spiritual eyes (the way that Laman and Lemuel did) it is a big risk.

I wonder how Laman and Lemuel felt when they left Jerusalem in the first place. Were they thinking, “This is weird, but we’ll be back in Jerusalem before the end of the month.”??? In the back of their minds, maybe they were comforted because they knew that they still had a home and ample of resources in Jerusalem. Maybe they thought that if they needed to, they could steal away into the night, leave the wilderness, and go back to the land of their inheritance and they would be fine – with all of their gold, silver, and precious things.

Now, with Nephi’s suggestion, things are getting really real. Yes, it would help them to get the plates of brass. However, after that they will have nothing left. They won’t have resources. They won’t have riches. They won’t have a way out of the wilderness if they decide to come back. They are burning every bridge that they have in Jerusalem.

But they take the risk.

And then…they fail…

“And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property.

And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban.” – 1 Nephi 3:25-26

This situation has the potential to be pretty demoralizing. It is for Laman and Lemuel:

“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 were so frustrated – with Nephi with Lehi with the entire situation – that they take it out on Nephi and Sam physically – by beating them with a rod.

And, if we go back to what we learned in 1 Nephi 2, that those who don’t know the dealings of their creator murmur (see 1 Nephi 2:12), then it is easy to see why Laman and Lemuel react the way that they did.

Now – it seems like every bridge is burned. Laban wants to kill Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. And, now that Laban has illegally seized all of their stuff, I’m sure that he is even more insistent on killing the sons of Lehi – to keep himself out of trouble!

The people of Jerusalem want to kill Lehi.

All of Lehi’s family’s riches and resources are gone.

It seems that they have nothing left. No opportunities, no resources, nothing.

Yet that isn’t true. They do have something left. And that something is more powerful and effective than any opportunity or resource.

As the angel declared:

“…Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.” – 1 Nephi 3:29

Though they have no money, though there are soldiers out looking to take their lives, though they have made enemies with a powerful man, they have the backing of the Lord. And he commands them, through the voice of His angel, to go back to Jerusalem and get the plates.

***

We read about Laman 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

Often, we criticize Laman and Lemuel, how could they murmur after seeing an angel?!

It’s probably good to think about it because we may be guilty of the same exact thing in our own lives.

  • As mentioned before, all resources have been exhausted
  • As mentioned before, there are people who want Laman and Lemuel dead. They have been chased out of town and barely escaped with their lives!
  • Let’s look at this from the beginning. Laman and Lemuel didn’t really want to go to Jerusalem in the first place. They thought that Lehi was crazy and that going back to get the plates was too hard. Yet somehow they are convinced to go.
  • They fail in getting the plates twice – they fail miserably. These failures probably reinforce their original thought – it is a hard thing that Lehi has required of them!
  • Now God says that He will help, but so far he hasn’t. Will it really be different?

Faith. It’s a choice. Sometimes it’s a hard choice.

One more time the Lord is asking them to take a risk – go back to Jerusalem. This time, going into Jerusalem to get the plates is riskier than it ever has been.

But…really…what is riskier?

I’m fairly convinced that the riskiest thing we can do is ignore the promptings of the Spirit – to ignore our personal commandments. Yes, often when we choose to get on the Lord’s path, it is challenging. It requires sacrifice. It seems risky. We might have to give up all we own, we might have to move out of town. We might be staking our reputation. These are the sacrifices and they seem risky when we think we are navigating this life alone.

But it is far riskier to rely on our own strength and ignore the Lord.

So – yes. Nephi’s second attempt was a risk. And it was a failure…in the short term. But, he risked nothing. His life, his resources, his reputation is nothing without God.

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Nephi understands, and we can learn from this story that following God – though we may have to give up our lives – is worth every so called sacrifice. And that ignoring the Lord’s promptings – thought it may seem like the “safer” thing to do – is the riskiest and stupidest thing we could ever attempt in this life.

Yes, Laban commands fifty and can slay fifty. But the Lord created Laban. The Lord grants us daily breath. The Lord is the surest thing in our lives. So, following His commandments, no matter what they ask of us, is always worth the risk.