An Invitation – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

First of all, 2 Nephi 9 is another absolutely amazing chapter in The Book of Mormon. Jacob explains the Atonement in this chapter.

We know that Jacob had a personal witness of the Savior.

Additionally, we know that Jacob had a great teacher – Lehi. 2 Nephi 2 is the chapter where Lehi teaches Jacob one final time before his death. Lehi taught about the need for opposition, the fall, and the benefits and blessings of the fall. Lehi taught about agency. He lays the groundwork for really understanding the need for an Atonement.

We can guess that chapter 9 is happening quite some time later – Lehi passed away, Laman and Lemuel had threatened Nephi, Nephi and his people fled from Laman and Lemuel, Nephi and his people built their own civilization. So, I’m sure some time has passed. Chapter 9 of 2 Nephi says that it happened anywhere between 559-545 BC: a span of about 14 years. Jacob has probably learned a lot since the time that his father taught him.

So – this chapter is awesome, and Jacob’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing. We are so blessed to have his teachings. Read all of 2 Nephi 9.

Today, I want to focus in on an invitation that Jacob gave:

“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

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Come Every One that Thirsteth

Who thirsts? Everyone! There is not a soul who can survive this world without water. There is true on both a physical and spiritual level.

So Jacob’s invitation is to everyone – all of us. None of us are turned away.

Come to the Waters

Jacob has identified his audience: all that thirst. By the way, Jacob is saying this by way of commandment. It isn’t merely Jacob’s invitation. It is the Lord’s invitation. So- we will refer to it as the Lord’s invitation from this point on.

What does the Lord offer to those that thirst (all of us): water.

I often tell myself and say to others: Our Lord is not Lucy. You know Lucy, from Charlie Brown. She sets Charlie Brown up – with the football. He runs to kick it, then she snatches it away, and he ends up flat on his back.

The Lord is not like that.

To those that thirst, He offers:

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into ceverlasting life.” – John 4:14

***

I have to admit that I take this for granted. I live in the U.S. I’ve lived a privileged life. I’ve been thirsty, sure. But water has never been hard to come by for me. I haven’t had to dig a well. I haven’t had to search for a spring or brook. If I’m thirsty, I can usually just get up and go right to the tap where clean water is ready for consumption. If I go for a hike, I have the ability to fill up a water bottle, bladder, or canteen with fresh water. I can’t imagine being in a situation where water simply is not available to me.

That being said, I’ve been thirsty before (obviously), and there is nothing quite like a refreshing glass of water when you really thirst.

Christ offers this to us. It is such a comfort and blessing. And He offers it to us consistently – like a tap that always has good, cool, clean water.

He that Hath no Money, Come Buy and Eat

The Lord not only offers us water, but he also says:

“…yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” –

The Lord offers us not only necessities, but also the abundances of wine and milk – without money or price. We simply have to come.

As I write this, I realize the water, the milk, and the wine – they aren’t free. He paid for them.

Do Not Spend Money for That Which is No Worth, Nor Labor for that Which Cannot Satisfy

Always good advice. And I can’t say that I always heed it. Why are we so much like raccoons? Could Jacob even imagine what these modern days would be like – how rich we would be, yet how empty so many of us feel because we are spending money on that which is of no worth???

I don’t want to write too much on this subject because I do spend money on what some might say is not of worth. I don’t want to pontificate on this subject because I don’t think that the Lord is telling us to be minimalists.

I really think that He is just saying that we will find happiness from Him, not from the things that we buy or other things that we chase after – thinking that they are important – in this life.

(Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t suggest we throw out the baby with the bathwater. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with “stuff.” It’s just that we should remember the role that “stuff” plays in our lives. Stuff is just stuff. We do need some stuff. And some stuff can make life a little nicer and more comfortable.  We simply need to remember it’s role and importance in our lives and not get confused – thinking that “stuff” is what will make us happy.)

Come Unto the Holy One of Israel

Come unto Christ! This is what we should focus on! Even as we do other things in life, we still need the Savior to be at the center of what we do. The Savior is what will bring us peace, joy, and life. He is the Living Water. He is the Bread of Life.

Feast Upon that Which Perisheth Not

Christ is everlasting. His gospel is everlasting. Feasting on His word will bring us the same kind of everlasting life and joy.

The Savior taught:

“6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 12:6 (See also Matthew 5:6)

When we feast on what He has to offer, we will experience satisfaction.

Let Your Soul Delight in Fatness

I really hope that you have made it this far in this blog post, because this is my favorite!

LET YOUR SOUL DELIGHT IN FATNESS!!!!!

How often do we get to hear something like this? Eat, eat, eat! Feasting too much on Christ and His good word? Impossible! Our spiritual fitness=fatness! Delight in it! Delight in the Savior, eat, drink and find joy in what He offers to us.

What an invitation.

This is a party I want to go to! There won’t be judgment. He’s not telling us to dress in black tie. We won’t be judging others – on their cars or clothing because as a part of the invitation, we have been advised not to spend money or labor on worthless things. Some people may show up to the party in a Range Rover, others may show up on foot. No big deal. We can trust that each person did what they needed to do, personally, to get there.

We don’t need to worry about what we are wearing. If we are wearing an expensive brand or clothes or something we got at Wal-Mart, it doesn’t matter. We just need to show up!

We just need to come. The Savior paid the price for each of us to come. He paid our entry fees. He had all of our names listed on the invite list. And now He invites us to come unto Him and participate fully, freely, and frequently. He wants us to be happy.

We can trust Him. He is not Lucy. If we will come unto Christ – through covenanting with Him and then keeping those covenants, then we will be able to let our souls delight in fatness.

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Choosing Christ and Liberty – 2 Nephi 2

All of the scriptures that we have are pretty amazing. I love The Book of Mormon, The Bible, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I love everything we learn in the scriptures.

But then, there are some scriptures and chapters that are absolutely amazing. 2 Nephi 2 is one of those chapters. It’s a doctrinal powerhouse where we learn about how we got here – on earth – and why we’re here. it teaches us how we can be happy. It addresses one of the problems we all face: opposition, and why that is actually a blessing. It teaches us about agency and liberty. All of these teachings hinge around the Savior.

There is so much to say, so I guess I’ll just write about one of the scriptures and concepts that is standing out to me a lot today.

There Is a God, and He Created Everything

Lehi teaches:

“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” – 2 Nephi 2:14-16

First of all, we learn:

  • There is a God.
  • He created all things – in the heavens and on the earth.
  • The things that God created include those things that act and those that are acted upon.

This last point – things to act and things to be acted upon – I have always loved this concept. When we consider the things that God created, some of them are inanimate. They don’t really “act” much. Then there are other things that do act. They are agents. As Elder Bednar explained:

“In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of agency—the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not only to be acted upon—especially as we seek to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.” – David A. Bednar

The Savior created us, and we have brains, spirits, bodies, wills. Above all, we have agency – the ability to act for ourselves. Of course, this is also in the context of opposition. We wouldn’t be able to “act” much if there were no choices.

Why? Why Come Here to Be Exposed to Opposition and Agency?

Why? The Lord wants us to be happy. But let’s think about that for a second.

Of course, when we think of opposition and agency, it can get a little overwhelming. Opposition is hard. The dilemmas and problems we face in life can be painful. Additionally, because we have the opportunity to be agents in our lives, this means others do, too. Often the actions of others have implications that bring us pain and suffering.

Sometimes it feels like agency is too painful to be worth the possible happiness. Sometimes it can be a temptation to go down the line of thinking that John Lennon preached – to imagine there’s no heaven. No hell. No countries. Nothing to kill or die for. No religion. No possessions. Nothing. I know that the song is popular, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way. (Note: I really love the Beatles and I liked John Lennon, but this song…just can’t do it). Here’s why – No religion. Nothing to die for. No heaven. No hope. No passion. Nothing.

It’s just bleak.

Not only that, but truly takes imagining because this scenario is imaginary. It is impossible. I’m not saying that because we aren’t capable of being loving beings. I’m saying that because It is a basic FACT of this world that there IS opposition. We might as well accept truth. There is day and night. There is high tide and low tide. There is good and evil.

Yes, the opposition that exists in this world can bring the possibility of some pretty terrible monsters. But it is also the only way to have good.

Lehi teaches what this world would be like if we had no opposition:

” For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:11-13

No opposition? No war? No death? No hell? No religion? Nothing to die for?

Well, then that would also mean No peace. No life. No heaven. No Hope. Nothing to live for. As Lehi said, “all things must have vanished away.”

Truly, the Lord’s plan is a great one – better than what we could have come up with! And in this plan, we are exposed to opposition with the option to exercise our agency.

God Had a Plan

Now, before we talk about happiness, we have to address what happened to get us to where we are.

Lehi teaches Jacob in 2 Nephi 2, that the Lord created the world and then set Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Prior to all of this, there was an angel in Heaven who rebelled against God and His plan (Lucifer, Satan). He came down to influence Adam and Eve.

The Lord allowed for this. As mentioned earlier, we wouldn’t be able to act for ourselves unless we were enticed by either good or evil. So, the Lord allowed for Satan to be His opposition.

Of course, we know that Eve was beguiled by Satan, she chose to eat the fruit, and then Adam followed suit. They were driven out of the Garden.

But remember – God had a plan! He lengthened the days of men and women on earth and gave them time to repent. The fall enabled Adam and Eve to have children (which was a command given by God!). Not only that, but because of the fall, there was a very miraculous result:

“…wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:23

If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit, it is true that they would have remained innocent and “blissful.” However, the result of the fall and even the incidental pain and suffering it introduced was also the ability to feel joy and to do good.

Instead of a world full of “nothing,” instead of “all things vanishing away,” Adam and Eve, their fall, and the death and hell that was introduced into the world gave way to purpose and joy.

Where’s the Happiness?

Lehi taught:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25

But how? How would they have joy? They had fallen. They had become susceptible to death. As other scriptures put it, they had become “carnal, sensual, and devilish.” Where is the joy in the fall?

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Well, Lehi continues:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” – 2 Nephi 2:26-27

Where is the Joy??? It is through the Messiah. The Lord, as we mentioned earlier, had a plan. He didn’t just send Adam and Eve, and you and I, to this earth to fail because of the weakness of our flesh. He offered up His son to redeem us from the ill effects of the fall, while still enjoying the benefits of it.

Because of Christ, we can experience life, we can be agents to act, and we can have hope for joy. Because of Christ, we become free forever. Instead of being innocent but ignorant beings living in a world void of opposition and opportunity, we learn how to exercise our agency that results in peace, satisfaction and joy – and this is all through the redemption of Christ.

The Redemption is Conditional

Notice in 2 Nephi 2:27, we are free to choose. It is up to us. We must make the choice – to choose Christ and His accompanying liberty and life or we can choose Satan and his captivity and death.

We must make a choice. Even “not making a choice,” choosing to be acted upon rather than to act, is a choice! If we don’t actively choose Christ, then we are actively choosing death and captivity. It’s pretty obvious – choose Christ! Choose life! Choose Joy! Choose Liberty! And it is such a comfort to know that this choice is on the table. It is a comfort to know that life, joy, and liberty are options – even in a world full of strife – all because of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

***

Lehi’s teachings in 2 Nephi 2 can point us in the right direction. It teaches us why we might want to choose Christ – because He offers us liberty and joy. His teachings teach us the very laws that govern this universe – such as the need for opposition and the need for a Savior. His teachings can motivate us to seek the Savior, to covenant with Him, and to keep His commandments.

As we continue to read the Book of Mormon, we will learn more about how to use our agency to access the life and liberty that Christ offers. But this chapter sets the groundwork that helps to motivate us to do so.

I love the Book of Mormon!

Nephi’s Witness of Christ – 1 Nephi 19:8-12

In 1 Nephi 19, Nephi has received a new commandment from God. This is after his arrival to the Promised Land with his family. He has been given the commandment to make another set of plates – another record.

He was already keeping one record – and it contained all of the history of his life and people. It was an exhaustive record of what was going on with him and his family.

Despite this record, the Lord commanded Nephi to make a second, smaller record – this a record of the ministry of his people. The Lord didn’t really want Nephi to spend much time on a historical record in this set of plates. Instead, the Lord wanted a really plain and pure record of the gospel, Nephi’s testimony, and other spiritual experiences of his and of the people’s.

So – this is kind of an interlude-ish chapter, where Nephi tells us that this record he is keeping will be of great worth to some, and it will be meaningless to others – depending on how we feel about the Savior.

And in this chapter, we get a beautiful prophecy of Christ from Nephi.

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The Coming of Christ

Nephi writes:

“And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel, in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 19:8

Nephi and his people knew that the Lord would come. Not only that, but they knew approximately when the Lord would come. And the Lord did come about 600 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.

The Lord reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets. They knew when the Savior would come to the earth. They had time to prepare for His coming.

Christ is Long-Suffering

Nephi continues:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

This is kind of sad, but it is just one of the facts of Christ’s coming to this earth. Because of the iniquity of the people, Christ – their promised Messiah was overlooked. He was scourged, smitten, and spit upon. The people were completely ignorant of the fact that they were doing this to their God.

I think of the concept that President Nelson has brought up from time to time – they are like goldfish completely unaware of who feeds them. And then maybe it is even worse. They are like a goldfish killing the very hand that feeds them.

Nephi puts this beautifully, though. Christ suffers their judgement, their scourging, their smiting, their spitting and reviling. Why does He do this? Because He loves us.

What does that even mean?

Well – I guess it means that because the Savior has so much love for us, He voluntarily came to this earth, lived a perfect life, ministered to the people, taught His Gospel, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, brought people to life, took on the sins of the world in the garden of Gethsemane, hung on the cross and died for the sins of the world, stayed in the spirit world for three days, was resurrected – He did all of this for us. He did all of this because we need Him. He did all of this for the reason given by Paul:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22

He suffered these silly ignorant judgments and subjected Himself to death so that He could overcome death and offer us salvation.

Christ was Crucified

We read more of Nephi’s record:

“And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.” – 1 Nephi 19:10

There is so much to say about this single verse!

First of all – notice – Nephi is quoting prophets we aren’t particularly familiar with: Zenock, Neum, and Zenos. This was from the writings of a prophet included in the Plates of Brass but it has been lost from modern-day records in the Bible.

Second of all – Nephi makes sure to let us know that he is talking about the Messiah, JEHOVAH. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is important for us to understand that He is God – and that HE yielded himself up into the hands of wicked man to be crucified. The wicked pharisees and Jews of Jerusalem didn’t catch a man in sin. They didn’t punish and put to death a powerless human being. Christ allowed himself to be judged and scourged. He did this because it was His work. As Matthew recorded:

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” – Matthew 16:21

Even the apostles didn’t quite understand. Peter responded:

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” – Matthew 16:22-23

The Lord knew what His work was. Though Peter loved Him and didn’t want to see His Master die, Peter misunderstood. This was the very mission, role, and work of the Messiah. If Christ saved His own life, then everything in His Father’s plan would have been frustrated.

The Savior yielded Himself because He loves His Father and He loves us. He yielded to wicked men and rebuked Peter because He understood His work and that the entire world would have been wasted if Christ didn’t yield Himself up.

Nephi understood this thanks to the scriptures. These prophets testified of the death and burial of Christ and of the physical signs that would accompany this historical event.

Christ Would Visit All of His People

We read in Nephi’s record:

“For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.” – 1 Nephi 19:11

Not only did Nephi know that the Lord would be crucified and buried in a sepulcher for three days, but he also knew because of the prophecies contained in the Plates of Brass that the Lord would visit all of the House of Israel when these events occurred.

Nephi adds his own witness to these prophecies – that the Lord would “visit” the scattered tribes of Israel with his voice, tempests, fires, darkness, earthquake, and other natural disasters. Because we have the Book of Mormon, we know that these prophecies were fulfilled on the American continent. They were all signs of the Savior’s death.

The God of Nature

Nephi writes:

“And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.” – 1 Nephi 19:12

Even though the people on “the isles of the sea” wouldn’t interact with Christ during His life, they would have signs of both His birth and His death. When the signs of His death came, they would understand through the Spirit of God that the God of nature suffered.

For some reason I love this idea. That our God is also the God of nature. I’m reminded of a scripture in Alma:

“…and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” – Alma 30:44

We don’t have to rely on only the witness of the prophets. (Although, those are some very great and valid witnesses!) But everything around us witnesses of the Savior. He created this earth, and the earth witnesses of Him. We can, if we will look, if we will not be like ignorant goldfish unaware of the one that feeds them, we will see God in the beauty of the world around us.

Creosote

Creosote

Fall Flowers

Fall Flowers in the Mountains

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

Oahu

The Pacific Ocean from Malaekahana

Phoenix at Night Date Palm

Date Palm on a Phoenix Night

Plumeria

Plumeria

Snowy Day

Snowy Day in the Mountains

The Grand Canyon

Rainbow over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

I can’t help but think about the experiences I had while taking these pictures – overwhelmed at the majesty of a mountain or the intricacy of a flower. I can feel the ocean breeze on my face, the heat of the desert, and the cool sting of snow. I can smell the pine forests, the desert creosote after rain, and the fragrant plumeria. I can hear the roar of the ocean, the yelps of a coyote, and the birdsong of finches, jays, and chickadees.

Our God, the God of nature, created this earth in all of its beauty, and it testifies of Him.

And when I think of these creations, I am more committed. I don’t want to cause the God of nature, my God, my Savior, Jesus Christ to suffer. I want to keep His commandments and partake of the Atonement He has offered to us – because of His long-suffering and loving-kindness. I want to be a better mother, daughter, wife, woman.

***

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon. I’m thankful that it turns my thoughts to the Savior every time I open its pages. It has taught me so many truths about both His gospel and the World. It has given me hope, peace, correction, and clarity. I know that the Book of Mormon is a witness of Christ.

I love this selection today because we see that Nephi’s witness of Christ didn’t only come through the amazing prophetic experiences that he had (like when he saw the vision of the tree of life), but Nephi’s witness of the Savior came through his own study of the scriptures. He knew Christ the same way we can come to know Christ: through personal experience , through the witnesses of others including His prophets, and through the world around us.

 

The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers – 1 Nephi 15:11

Right now, as I read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I’m reading roughly six pages a day so that I can finish it by the end of the year.

As I read, I’m also looking for mentions of Jesus Christ – by that name or any of his other titles. I’m looking for things He says, and things that we learn about Him.

You learn a lot about the Savior in six whole pages of the Book of Mormon – too much for me to really write about and ponder in one sitting. So, I just pick one thing that really stands out to me and study it.

Today, I’m really interested in something that Nephi teaches us about how the Savior works in our lives.

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Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

First, though a bit of background…Nephi had just finished having the vision where he learned the interpretation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. He learned about Christ’s birth, life, and death. He learned about the scattering and gathering of Israel. He saw the rise and then the fall of his own civilization in the promised land.

After this amazing vision, he went to the tent of his father, where his brothers were all arguing with each other.

Nephi was kind of stressed out because of some of the things that he saw in his vision (the complete collapse of his people). He finally asks his brothers what they are arguing about. And we read:

“And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” – 1 Nephi 15:7

Nephi asks them the obvious thing – Had they inquired of the Lord. Of course they hadn’t. Nephi asks them a few questions…How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of God? and How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Okay. And then we get to the point of today’s post. As Nephi speaks to his brothers, we learn about the Savior. We read:

“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” – 1 Nephi 15:11

This isn’t just Nephi’s opinion of the matter. This isn’t Nephi asking his brothers “how is it that…” This is Nephi reminding his brothers of what the Lord, Himself had taught and promised.

The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers

Let’s look at this in reverse. At the end, Nephi states, “surely these things shall be made known unto you.”

The result is that they will know.

There are loads of other scriptures offering this same promise. Here is what the Savior said when He gave the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

Again, let’s look at the result:

  • it shall be given you
  • ye shall find
  • it shall be opened
  • everyone that asketh receiveth
  • he that seeketh findeth
  • to him that knocketh it shall be opened

It sounds like a good deal here. Before we even approach the Lord, we can rest assured that the Lord wants to answer our prayers. So – now let’s see what we need to do in order to qualify for such a blessing.

Harden Not Your Hearts

First, we have to have a soft heart. What does this mean? Well, let’s check the dictionary.

Hard hearted: Lacking in sympathetic understanding, unfeeling, pitiless – Merriam-Webster

Stubbornness. That could also be a way to describe what hard heartedness is.

All I know is, the Lord can help us with our heart condition. He doesn’t expect us to simply soften it ourselves. We soften it by turning our hearts to Him, and then He does the softening. We read in 1 Nephi:

“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, emphasis added

Nephi turned to the Lord, and the Lord helped to make Nephi’s heart soft, pliable ground – fertile for faith.

This is how we must go to the Lord – willing, more than anything else. He will soften our heart. And a soft heart is essential if we want to have answers to our prayers – if we want to understand more of the will and mysteries of God in our lives.

Ask Me In Faith

Asking in faith is more than asking. Asking in faith means we believe – we believe in God’s power. We believe in His ability to answer our prayers. And, I think most importantly of all, we believe and accept the answers that we receive.

I used to think that If I had enough faith then I would just get whatever it is what I wanted. Slowly, I’m learning that faith is indeed moving forward as a creator in my own life, and then if I don’t get exactly what I want, believing and trusting in God – that what I have received is actually what will best answer my prayers and put me on a course headed to Him and the happiness He offers each of us.

So – We must not harden our hearts, and we must develop faith. Then we are led to the next point:

Believing that Ye Shall Receive

What is the point of asking if we don’t believe it will happen anyway? What kind of faith are we expressing if we don’t believe we will receive?

This is obvious, and we might not all be that skeptical.

But maybe this happens in our lives in a more subtle way. I was thinking of a metaphor recently.

Sometimes life is like making a cake, but we don’t know how to do it. So we go to the Lord, and He instructs us how to make a cake – one step at a time. Each step is a leap of faith – you receive the instruction to cream together butter and sugar, and after this first step (but before you understand how it fits in to the whole cake-making operation), you think – AHHH! This isn’t a cake! And now – look at my butter! It’s ruined.

Of course, it isn’t. You just aren’t finished with the cake.

The cake making endeavor takes a bit of faith – you “ruin” plenty of ingredients – beating eggs, butter, sugar, and flour…and then placing them into the oven hoping that the heat will magically make this mess of batter into something delectable.

You do the work, you wait while it cooks, and then the buzzer dings – time to get out the cake! When it’s a cake, it’s easy to just take it out of the oven and then enjoy it. But sometimes in life, we get to that point where it’s time to take out the cake, and we might think that we don’t deserve it!

I think that I have fallen into this trap – that yes the Lord is capable of blessing me, but that I shouldn’t expect the blessing. I sometime mistakenly think that suffering and being a “martyr” is somehow more saintly than receiving.

In this way, there are times when I subtly ask, but I don’t really believe that I’ll receive.

We stop ourselves short. We might have a soft heart. We might have faith. But we don’t believe that we should receive – what follows? Perhaps self-sabotage, or perhaps a refusal of the blessing that the Lord extends to us.

In any case, we need to believe that we shall receive, and then be ready to receive when the Lord gives us answer to our prayers.

With Diligence in Keeping my Commandments

This is important for so many reasons. Of course, first of all – the diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord is a demonstration of our soft hearts, faith, and belief that we shall receive. So it is important.

I think that diligence in keeping the commandments also helps us to remain worthy for the answer of prayers (having a soft heart, faith, and belief that we will receive aren’t one-time checklist items. It’s a continuous effort).

But…here’s another thing…Two scriptures:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” – Doctrine and Covenants 82:10

AND

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” – Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21

Another important aspect of commandment keeping is that it might just be how our prayer is answered! There are times, as we seek the Lord diligently, He gives us impressions and promptings – personal commandments. Often, we see these things as a test of our faith, and I suppose in a way they are.

However, they might also be the way to have the blessing we desire. God cannot bless us willy-nilly. He is governed by universal laws, and He has let us know this fact in the Doctrine and Covenants. If we want to be blessed, then we need to keep the law upon which that blessing is predicated.

And, if we do what the Lord says, then He is bound to bless us accordingly.

So – keeping the commandments not only keeps us soft hearted, faithful, and believing that we will receive – keeping the commandments may just be the way that the Lord is able to answer our prayers.

***

Now, I realize that this scripture isn’t really about a specific characteristic of Christ. Instead, it is a promise that the Savior has made to us. But I think that by looking at this promise – that the Lord will answer our prayers – helps us to understand more about the Savior. He wants to empower us. He wants to bless us with knowledge. And He has instructed us how to access more understanding and power in our lives.

Nephi is an example of this. He did just as the Lord instructed. He softened his heart. He asked the Savior in faith. He believed he would receive. He kept the commandments – general and personal – that the Father had given Him…and he received according to his righteous desires.

I’m grateful to know that we have a God who loves us. He isn’t arbitrary or power hungry. He isn’t moody or irrational. He lives according to a set of laws that He has also given to each of us. We can know more of His mysteries and live a better life, if we simply seek Him and ask. In fact, He aches to be able to answer our prayers, which is why He has pled with us to ask, seek, and knock.

Instead of making the assumption that “he taketh no such thing known unto us,” and then not asking in the first place, we can follow this pattern set forth by Nephi to access the influence of the Lord in our lives.

The Love of God – 1 Nephi 11:12-22

You can read 1 Nephi 11:13-22 here.

After hearing his father relate the vision of the tree of life, Nephi had a great desire to really understand what his father’s dream meant. Nephi spent time pondering and praying, and then had his own vision of his father’s dream that helped him to understand it.

Nephi aches to understand what the meaning of the tree of life is. An angel is showing him the meaning of Lehi’s dream, and the first thing that is addressed is the meaning of the tree.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the angel asks what Nephi wants to know. Nephi says he wants to know what the interpretation of the tree of life is. And this is the response:

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

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” – 1 Nephi 11:12-13

So – the angel departs from Nephi’s presence, and then Nephi sees a vision. He sees Jerusalem and other cities. He sees Nazareth. In Nazareth, he sees a virgin.

What does this have to do with the Savior or the tree of life? Well, let’s read on.

“And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” – 1 Nephi 11:14-15

The angel returns again and asks Nephi what he saw. What was it that Nephi saw? Well, he recognized that he saw a virgin who was beautiful and fair. He saw Mary.

I have no idea how Nephi understood that Mary was a virgin. Maybe it was an impression. Maybe it was something based on a cultural understanding that I have no knowledge of. … Okay, so I did a quick internet search, and found this: “How did Nephi know Mary was a virgin? A few verses later, the angel calls her as such, but Mary may have been wearing the veil of a virgin or the double sash, plainly indicating her status to Nephi (See Mary and Elisabeth by S. Kent Brown, 13).” (See here.)

So – he knew that she was a virgin. And he describes this virgin as

  • exceedingly fair and white
  • Most beautiful and fair above all other virgins

By the way – notice what Nephi said about the tree:

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” – 1 Nephi 11:8

This tree sounds a lot like Nephi’s description of Mary. The tree is beautiful – exceeding of all beauty. It was whiter than the driven snow. The tree is what bears the fruit and Mary is the woman who bore the Savior.

I’ve never really noticed this before, and I can’t say that I figured this out on my own. I read an article here that clued me into this connection.

Now, I know that this really is about the Savior. And that is what this dream is about, too. After all Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree.

So – in understanding this vision of his father’s the angel of the Lord shows Nephi Mary. Then he asks Nephi a critical question. We read the question and Nephi’s response:

“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:16-17

Here, the angel is starting to help Nephi understand the meaning of the tree by asking a simple question. The angel asks if Nephi knows the condescension of God.

Nephi admits that he doesn’t, but he prefaces his lack of understanding with something he does know – that God loves his children.

(Side note: I love this. We don’t need to know everything. Nor should we have blind faith. Though Nephi didn’t know everything about God, he knew that God loved him – that God is a trustworthy, loving father).

The angel continues:

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.” – 1 Nephi 11:18-20

The angel explains that the virgin Nephi saw was indeed Mary – the mother of our Savior. Nephi didn’t see her for a bit, and then he sees her again – still a virgin – bearing her child in her arms.

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The Nativity, by Ted Henninger

Bearing fruit.

And now, the angel announces:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!…” – 1 Nephi 11:21

This little baby in the virgin’s arms – is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World. Nephi saw this and understood it. We read:

“…Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:21-22

Nephi saw this virgin and her son and recognized that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies of his father and other prophets. Though John hadn’t yet written his scripture (See John 3:16), Nephi understood that this baby was the embodiment of the Love that God had for our world. Nephi saw and understood all of this when he saw Mary hold the baby in her arms.

I can’t help but think of another experience recorded in scripture:

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” – Luke 2:25-33

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine – how did Nephi understand that the baby that Mary held was the Savior of the world. I mean, later on, Nephi learns more about the Savior’s life, but he “got it” before seeing all of that. It is only after seeing Mary hold the baby Jesus in his arms that he understands that the tree of life that his father saw was the love of God – the most desirable of all things (and, as the angel mentions, the most joyous to the soul). How did he understand this?

I suppose it is the same way that Simeon understood that the newborn babe in the temple was the consolation of Israel, salvation, light, and glory. It is because the Holy Ghost was upon Him.

Simeon saw the tiny infant Jesus and saw the “fruit of the tree” – most desirable and joyous of all things.

And, Nephi, though in a vision 600 years prior to Simeon’s experience, saw the same thing.

We don’t need to have lists of proofs and experiences to know the Savior. (By the way, they are there). We don’t need to have a rational explanation of the greatest joy and love this world has ever known. We simply need the Holy Ghost to bear witness to us that it is true.

Our world as a whole, and our individual lives, have eternal hope, meaning, and joy – all because a fair, young virgin chose to be the Lord’s handmaid and bore the Savior into this world.

The Savior Converses with His Children – 1 Nephi 1:6, 9-11

Right as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ opens, we learn something pretty amazing about the Lord. He communicates with His children.

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Portrait of Christ, Carl Bloch

First we read of Lehi’s experience:

“And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.” – 1 Nephi 1:6

Other than the pillar of fire that appeared before Lehi, I don’t know what Lehi saw and heard. But I know that it had a major impact on him. In some ways, it seems like this was probably an uncomfortable experience. Lehi quaked and trembled much.

My guess is that Lehi was having an experience that was purifying. It probably wasn’t all that comfortable. But I think that it is helpful for us to know so that we can better understand our interactions with the Lord. Yes, the Lord will speak to us. Sometimes, however, what He communicates with us may not be all that comfortable. In order for us to really get closer to the Lord, we often have to be purified. But if we are like Lehi, then we will use this opportunity to wrestle with our own personal “natural man” or “woman.” We will go home and ponder, just as Lehi did. And then we will have another experience with the Lord:

” And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.” – 1 Nephi 1:8-11

The Lord will Manifest Himself to Us, if We Are Willing

Because Lehi was willing to first be purified by the Lord, He was then able to have this amazing manifestation.

I don’t think that the Savior will manifest Himself to all of us in the exact same way. Personally, I believe that the Savior manifests Himself to each of us in a way that 1) we understand and 2) according to the work and purposes of our lives.

But we can learn so much about the Savior from Lehi’s experience.

  1. The Lord will Communicate with Us. – The Lord didn’t ignore Lehi’s prayers. He answered them – first in a pillar of fire and a strong message while Lehi was out near a rock. Second – the Lord answered Lehi’s prayers when Lehi came home and continued pondering the first experience. This time the Lord communicated with Lehi through a divine vision.
  2. Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father – while comprising one Godly Unit (along with the Holy Ghost) – are distinct beings. – Together, they work together to make one God – with one purpose. Lehi saw God sitting upon his throne – surrounded by numberless concourses of angels. Then, Lehi sees One descending out of the midst of Heaven. This indicates two different beings. In this circumstance, “One,” refers to the Savior, Jesus Christ – who is the mediator between us and the Father.

    Notice how it isn’t Heavenly Father who comes down to Lehi. Christ is our intercessor between us and the Father. Heavenly Father doesn’t often deal with us directly, but uses His Son to do the work. Additionally, we don’t approach Heavenly Father completely independently. Even in prayer, we must say it in Christ’s name. He is the Mediator, and we see this in Lehi’s experience.

  3. The Savior is full of light – Lehi notices that the “One” who descends from the midst of heaven was shining. His luster was “above that of the sun at noon-day.”
  4. The Savior will Reveal His Mysteries to Us The Savior, descended out of heaven, with 12 following Him. Then He handed Lehi a book. The Lord will reveal His mysteries to us if we seek Him diligently and allow Him to purify us.Later in the chapter, we learn that part of what Lehi learned was that Jerusalem – if it continued in its wicked trajectory – would be destroyed. The Lord will revel His mysteries, which often include warnings. We must just make ourselves available to hear what our the Lord, through His Spirit, has to say to us.

The Lord Expresses His Love and Happiness with Us and Our Choices

One thing that I think the Lord really wants us to know is that he loves us.

Notice what the Lord says to Lehi and then later what He says to Nephi:

“For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.” – 1 Nephi 2:1

And then to Nephi:

“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” – 1 Nephi 2:19

The Lord notices what we are doing. He cares about us. And in each instance – both with Lehi and Nephi before stating anything else to them, He expressed His blessings on them. He expressed a sort of pleasure or pride in what they are doing. Maybe that isn’t the right way to say it. I’m not sure…He notices the work they are doing, the sacrifices they are making, the commandments they are keeping, the faith they are expressing.

We can rest assured that the Lord knows us, too. That He recognizes our efforts no matter how big or small they are. Lehi was the prophet. Nephi was exceedingly young – but the Lord answered both of their prayers.

He loves us.

Oh…there is so much more that we can learn in these first three chapters about our Lord and Savior. And if you have read any of my other blog posts, then you know I can study them and be long winded. But I must wrap up for now. Today, we can simply know that God loves us. He listens to us. He communicates with us. He will manifest Himself to us. He will guide us. He will protect us.

Truly, the Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ. Even in these three first chapters, we grow in closeness to our Savior as we see how He has interacted with his children in ancient times.

It Was Not After the Manner of Men – 1 Nephi 18:1-4

You can read 1 Nephi 18:1-4 here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel worship the Lord. They also help Nephi with building the boat.
  • The ship was not worked “after the manner of men,” but Nephi built the boat in the way that God instructed him.
  • Nephi went to the mount often to pray. The Lord showed him great things.
  • When they were finished building the ship – according to the word of the Lord – they all beheld that it was good, the workmanship was fine. And they were all humbled before the Lord.

It Was Not After the Manner of Men

In the past, I haven’t usually cared much about Nephi’s boat – how was it built? How did it get across the ocean? etc. I have always figured that if we needed to understand certain specificities, then Nephi would have included that information.

However, there is some information that he included:

“Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” – 1 Nephi 18:2

We don’t know what kind of boat that Nephi built, but what we do know is that it was not built after the manner of men. The Lord showed him how to do it.

So let’s think about Nephi. He had been traveling in the wilderness for years. He made it to Bountiful. He had received instruction to build a boat. He made bellows and started making tools (this probably took a few months – to kill an animal, prepare the hide, make tools, etc.) So much of what Nephi had experienced in the wilderness was new – including this situation – building a boat.

And I would imagine that Nephi hadn’t really seen anything like this before. Yes, he had travelled along the shores of the Red Sea, but they knew that it was the Red Sea. They knew that on the other side of the Red Sea was Egypt and Africa. But by the time that they reached Bountiful, they were not on the Red Sea anymore. They called this “Irreantum,” which was “many waters.”

They were on the borders of the Arabian Sea, which is a part of the Indian Ocean. Many waters, indeed!

And now, Nephi has to build a boat. There is no real reason for us to think that he had ever built a boat before. The boats used on inland seas (the Sea of Galilee, for example) were not quite the same as a boat that would have been needed to cross the ocean.

The Phoenicians were known for sailing and voyaging, they had better ships that could withstand more, but still, they primarily were in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea (as far as I know).

And how familiar would Nephi really be with those types of boats? They would probably be a faint memory. I mean, we know that Nephi was very young (nevertheless large in stature), when he left Jerusalem. So what did he really know about boats? What was his concept of a boat or a ship? I can’t imagine.

And then he gets the assignment to build a boat.

Nephi has full confidence in the Lord, and he begins to follow his instructions – and all he really shares with us is that this boat was “not after the manner of men.”

Okay…so the real thing that I want to think about is how often we face this in our lives. And are we as humble or faithful to accept God’s way of doing things – rather than our way or the way of those around us?

In late 2006, I was a young (divorced) single mother of two. I had been dating people off and on. I had a desire to be married again, but I wasn’t going to rush into anything – so I was just kind of doing my best without putting it all into my own hands (does that make sense).

Anyway, one day I was meeting with my Bishop, and he had a suggestion for me – that I “give the Lord something to work with, and go online.” It was not the suggestion that I was expecting, and I wasn’t really all that quick to follow it.

In a way, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Why go online? Why not meet someone the normal way – in person?!?!

But a few days later, I felt a prompting, just to obey for obedience sake.

What followed was my meeting this guy online. He didn’t live in my state. I didn’t actually think anything of it. I didn’t think that we would really get into any kind of relationship. I just read his blog and thought it was funny.

But one email led to another. Which led to another. Which eventually led to phone calls and falling in love. In fact, I fell in love with him before I ever met him.

We met. We got engaged. We got married. And now we’ve been married for 11 years, he adopted my two daughters and then we’ve had two more children.

The thing is, this didn’t happen a “normal” or “conventional” way. The Lord helped me through my problems in his own way…it was “curious workmanship,” for sure.

But this experience taught me something – we can trust the Lord. He will instruct us better than our own wisdom, experiences, or instinct. He sees the end from the beginning.

When I first met Homey (my husband) online, he was really cool, and I remember thinking – this is better than what I would have come up with for myself!. He really was.

And now, 11 years later, I can say the same thing even more emphatically. I have seen how wise the Lord was in letting us meet and bringing us together. I can see how wise the Lord was in letting us meet in such an unconventional way. It has been a strength and blessing for our marriage and lives.

Homey and I met online, fell in love through phone calls and emails in a matter of only two months, and then finally met, got engaged, married, and I moved cross-country within six months for my first email to him. This was not after the manner of men. Yes – there were times we had concerns. But throughout, the Lord guided us and comforted us. The Spirit does not bear false witness, so we could trust the comfort and guidance that He gave to us.

I hate to think what would have happened if I had insisted on doing things a more conventional way. I hate to think what would have happened if I insisted that the Lord did not work a “curious workmanship” in my life that was “not after the manner of men.”

If Nephi had insisted on building a boat in a way that was more familiar to him, no doubt it would have sunk; they wouldn’t have made it to the promised land.

Go To The Mount Oft and Pray

How does this work, though? How do we allow the Lord to work a “curious workmanship” in our own lives?

Well, Nephi gives the answer in his example:

“And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.” – 1 Nephi 18:3

Nephi didn’t have the answers to building this boat. He didn’t have a blueprint. He had the spiritual guidance from the Lord, so he had to stay in a state that enabled him to receive such instruction. This was achieved through consistent and thoughtful prayer.

The Lord reveals to us line upon line, precept upon precept. It wouldn’t have been helpful for Nephi to receive every single step of the instructions to build a boat all at once. Nephi did step one, then he received instruction for step two. He did step two, went to the Lord, and received instruction for step three. And so on.

When we are allowing the Lord to work a “curious workmanship” in our lives, we don’t need to get frustrated by the need for constant counsel with God. We don’t need to be frustrated that we don’t know every step. Though it is hard (faith building!) to receive only one step at a time – or to only have the path before us dimly lit – we can do it. We don’t need to see the end from the beginning because we have a God who does see the end from the beginning!

Oh – and another thing. We don’t need to get frustrated with ourselves when we aren’t “successful” after completing the first “step.” We don’t need to think we are making mistakes or lacking faith. We don’t need to think that if we were more faithful, then we would simply be successful right away.

Building the boat was a process. When they finished the boat – it wasn’t because they were finally being faithful for that very last step. All of the instructions and steps leading up to the finishing of the boat weren’t mistakes. It’s not like if they only had more faith, then they would have been able to make the ship in one step in a day.

Often, the “curious workmanship” in our own lives takes on a similar process. Yes we need to be faithful, but faith is what takes us through every step – not only the final step. Instead of getting bogged down when we have to go back up the “mount” to pray for more guidance, we can rest assured that we are on the right path…we just have to keep on keeping on.

We can take comfort in those metaphorical (or maybe even literal) trips to the tops of the mountains – to the trips to the temple – to the trips that take us to our knees so we can be counseled by God and shown great things.

There is so much more that can be considered in these scriptures, but I need to wrap it up right now.

What Nephi did – building a boat not after the manner of men – was pretty hard. But he did it. He didn’t rely on his own genius. He just relied on his own determination to do as the Lord instructed. We know that it worked! We know that Nephi built a boat and when it was finished, everyone saw that it was good! We know that this boat delivered them to the promised land.

Our lives can be hard, too. We may not be building boats, but we often have times in our own lives where we have to put our full trust in the Lord as he directs us to do something that may seem highly unusual. But, like Nephi, when we put our trust in the Lord, we will find comfort and eventual deliverance.

Convinced by the Power of God – 1 Nephi 17:48-55

You can read 1 Nephi 17:48-55 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi finished his “speech” to Laman and Lemuel. They were angry with what he said and wanted to throw him into the depths of the sea. As they came up to him, he commanded them not to touch him – as he was filled with the power of God unto the consuming of his flesh.
  • Nephi then told them not to murmur against their father and to help him build the ship according to God’s commandment.
  • Nephi testifies that he could do anything God commanded him.
  • Nephi reasons that God has the power to make the water into dry ground, why not enough power to teach Nephi how to build a boat?!
  • Nephi confounded his brothers with his testimony.
  • The Lord also told Nephi to stretch out his hand. In so doing, the Lord shocked Laman and Lemuel. Nephi did as instructed. Laman and Lemuel weren’t killed or seriously injured, but they were shaken and then finally convinced that Nephi had been commanded to build a boat and that the Lord would show him how to do it.
  • Laman and Lemuel, after being shocked wouldn’t touch Nephi for several days. They also fell down to worship Nephi.
  • Nephi wouldn’t suffer Laman and Lemuel to worship him – reminding him that he is their younger brother, they shouldn’t worship him, but they should worship God and honor their parents.

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Convinced by the Power of God

There is something that is really standing out to me today as I read. After Nephi has recounted examples of God’s power from their history and the scriptures, he then makes a conclusion that the Lord – with His great power – will deliver them just as He has delivered so many others.

This line of reasoning didn’t convince Laman and Lemuel of God’s power. It shut them up for a moment, but they needed to physically feel God’s power (they were shocked!) in order to be convinced. They don’t draw upon their past experiences of witnessing God’s power. They won’t remember the times when they have seen an angel, heard the voice of the Lord, or experienced His still, small voice. They refuse to learn from the scriptures and experiences of others. (Remember, Moses and the children of Israel aren’t just “ancient scriptures” to them – these are their forefathers! this is the history of Israel!)

The only way that Laman and Lemuel are convinced of God’s ability to empower Nephi to build a boat is when they are physically shocked.

I can’t say that I’m always the best at remembering and believing. There are times when the Lord has had to hit me with the proverbial frying pan. I can say that these experiences aren’t always the most pleasant. It is just so much easier (in the long run) to have faith!

There are times when life requires a lot of faith from us; there are times when we may be more reliant on the tender mercies of God than others. There are times when, after years of traveling through our own “wilderness,” we are on the shores of the sea, we need to build a boat, we have nearly made it to our “promised lands.” But one last big push must be made. We have to exercise our faith in ways that stretch us.

In these moments, maybe it is helpful to remember Nephi’s words:

“And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” – 1 Nephi 17:51

We have the blessing of hindsight. Nephi’s reasoning why not trust the Lord is right. Nephi knew the Lord was trustworthy – that He would deliver them. And we know that the Lord did deliver Nephi and his brothers. Nephi DID build a boat. And it wasn’t just some dinghy. It carried their family from the Arabian Peninsula to the Americas. It crossed at least two oceans. This boat withstood that terrible storm we will read about in coming chapters.

It worked!

The Lord was powerful enough to instruct Nephi to build a ship that would safely deliver them to the Promised Land.

We know this, and we have countless examples of the Lord’s power working in the lives of His children.

So – if we are having trouble trusting God, then we can ask ourselves the same question: If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot empower me and deliver me?

He can. And He will.

Past Feeling – 1 Nephi 17:43-47

You can read 1 Nephi 17:43-47 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is still speaking to his brothers. After the many years since the Jews were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they are wicked – nearly unto ripeness, and the Lord will allow to be destroyed. Nephi doesn’t know if they are destroyed yet, but they will be soon.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord commanded Lehi to depart into the wilderness because the Jews were going to kill him. And now, Laman and Lemuel are like them – seeking to kill Lehi, their own father.
  • Laman and Lemuel are swift to do iniquity, but slow to remember God and do good. They have had plenty of witnesses and tender mercies, but they choose not to feel His Spirit and direction.
  • Nephi asks, why are Laman and Lemuel so hard in their hearts???
  • Nephi’s soul is rent with anguish because of them. They are his brothers, and he fears that they will be cast off forever. He is so full of the Spirit of God that his body no longer has any strength.

Past Feeling

Well, in 1 Nephi 17, Laman and Lemuel are used to their typical stuff.

Let’s go over a few facts first:

One – Lehi and his family have been traveling in the wilderness for years they have traveled through the Arabian Peninsula – first along the borders of the Red Sea, and then they traveled in an Easterly direction until they made it to the shores of “many waters.” They called this land Bountiful, and it was not on the shores of the Red Sea (most likely they were in modern-day Oman).

I would imagine that this would have been hard.

Two – Although the journey was difficult, they were supported. The Lord enabled them to get the plates of brass. The Lord helped to soften Ishmael’s heart and bring his family into the wilderness so that Lehi’s sons could have wives. The Lord gave them the Liahona – an object that was of “curious workmanship.” An angel had appeared to Laman and Lemuel. Their hearts, though often prone to murmuring, had also been softened from time to time.

***

Yes, it would have been hard to do what they did. Yes, there were trials and difficulties that they faced throughout the journey, but they had also been supported. And here they are – on the seashore. They had a choice – to end their journey or to help Nephi build a ship and make it to that final step of the promised land.

Of course, Laman and Lemuel make their lives harder than they need to. Nephi states:

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.” – 1 Nephi 17:45

Swift to do Iniquity but Slow to Remember the Lord Your God

Nephi points out that Laman and Lemuel have an easy time with wickedness but find it very hard to remember the Lord, their God.

And it’s true. I’m not going to take the time to show the examples of this right now, but you can read through past entries. Laman and Lemuel never show the faith as a matter of default or instinct. Always, they question. Always, they trend toward wickedness. They are only motivated to be faithful when they have been compelled.

So – what do we learn from this? I suppose we can ask ourselves, what do I do? Am I swift to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord?

I don’t think that we need to have false humility here. Just answer it honestly. For myself, while I’m not perfect, I do make efforts to choose the righteous path. I try to maintain a faithful attitude even in the face of trial and adversity.

Obviously, there are times when I sin, and the Holy Ghost makes me aware of these issues. The Lord is patient with me as I’m trying to become a better person. But I don’t think that Nephi, or the Lord would ask me, why are you swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God?

Even though I don’t feel swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God, this doesn’t mean I can just sit back and say, Well, that’s not my problem. I think that it is helpful for us to remember how easy it is for us to adopt the same sort of behavior of Laman and Lemuel. It is the natural state of all of humankind to be swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God. We have to work against this behavior!

So what do we do? Standard church answers, I guess. We read the scriptures, pray, go to church. And when we do those things, we really do them. We ponder the scriptures. We pray with real intent.

Another thing that I have found helpful for maintaining my faith, hope, and trust in the Lord is by getting outside and being active – going for walks, hikes, runs, whatever. I like to do this on my own or while talking with a good friend. I’m also grateful for my camera. I try to take a picture of something I find beautiful that will help me to admire God’s creations and feel His love in my life.

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A walk in the woods.

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It is easier for me to remember the Lord’s influence in my life when I get outside for a few moments.

Ye Have Seen An Angel, and He Spake Unto You

This is probably one of the most mind boggling experiences in the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel literally saw an angel. And after the angel appeared to them, they doubt; they murmur.

I think that it is hard for anyone who has read the Book of Mormon to understand. How could they murmur? How would this not be a life-changing experience that helps them to become righteous??? I suppose it all has to do with their choice to have faith. Though the angel spoke to them, they didn’t have any faith. They chose not to believe. The Lord doesn’t force anything on us, and this is a prime example of how the Lord honors our agency.

I would also guess that their murmuring is a way that they are talking themselves out of the experience. That happens. Sometimes, we experience a tender mercy, and then tell ourselves, “it was just a coincidence.” I have witnessed people experience real miracles, yet they have a hard time accepting that these miracles came from a powerful, omniscient God who loves them. Instead, they find a way to wiggle out of the miracle. They find a way to murmur or doubt.

If we don’t recognize the miracles of our lives for the miracles that they are, then it is really easy to forget that we have “seen angels.”

Ye Have Heard His Voice from Time to Time; and He Hath Spoken to You in a Still, Small Voice

The Lord had tried many methods to communicate with Laman and Lemuel. He had sent an angel. They had heard His voice. He had spoken with them using a still small voice. But they don’t recognize Him. They don’t pay these voices any attention. Something as miraculous as an angel fell on deaf ears – because they chose to be deaf.

Again, I think that it is helpful for us to think about ourselves. Are there times when the Lord tries to speak to us, but we don’t hear? He speaks to us in a still, small voice are there times when the voices around us are too loud and distracting for us to hear His voice?

Ye Were Past Feeling

All of the methods of communication employed by Heavenly Father to Laman and Lemuel didn’t matter because they were past feeling. They didn’t know how to listen. They didn’t know how to recognize.

Their swift habit to do iniquity dulled their spiritual senses.

It’s all a choice. We have to remember that.

I’ll give an example that I think works, but I can’t be totally sure…so we’ll see.

I really love wildflowers. Earlier this year, at the end of spring/early summer, I knew that the days were getting long enough and the temperatures getting high enough that the wildflowers would start blooming.

A friend of mine had just returned from a hike, and I was talking with him. I asked, “Did you see any flowers blooming?” I knew, based on where he was hiking, that the glacier lilies and oregon grape should be blooming. They are always the first little yellow blooms to appear each spring.

His answer, “Nope. I didn’t see any flowers at all.”

I responded, “Oh…I guess they’ll be out there soon,” but I had to smile because I knew that they were already blooming. I hadn’t seen them, but all of the signs were there – the dandelions were blooming in hay fields. The small red-stem storksbill could be found in the cracks of sidewalks. Because of my past experiences, I knew the glacier lilies and other flowers were blooming.

And the next day, my husband and I hiked the same hike that the other friend had hiked the day before.

And you guessed it…there were wildflowers.

Now – there weren’t hundreds and thousands of wildflowers. It wasn’t July. These flowers are small and only occasionally dot the forest floor. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll breeze right past them. But they are there. And when you learn to look, you’ll find that there are quite a lot of them!

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Glacier Lily

I think that sometimes hearing the voice of the Lord is similar. You have to be tuned in. Your senses need to be sharpened. When you learn to look and listen for the Lord, you’ll find that your life is just filled with these little tender mercies. You’ll find that He truly is present in your life – trying to communicate with you. But he won’t force Himself on you.

Well, maybe that’s not totally true. Even if He does force Himself on us – just as Laman and Lemuel did see an angel, He doesn’t force us to listen, believe, or care.

There are plenty of times, on the trail, when you see a wildflower in a fairly obvious place – but a hiker has walked right on it, stamping it down. A bright flower in the middle of the trail couldn’t be more obvious, but still people might pass right by it and trample over it. Unfortunately, this is what we sometimes do with the Lord and His communication with us, too.

Being past feeling isn’t just something that happened to Laman and Lemuel. It isn’t something that Nephi is saying to make them feel like junk. It was a result of their repeated choices. Because they were past feeling, none of the blessings and tender mercies that they had experienced in their lives mattered. They couldn’t see, hear, or experience beauty.

Their choice to pass over God’s influence in their life reinforced their swiftness to do iniquity.

It’s all kind of sad. And stupid, really. Why make life harder than it is? Why not take the time to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives? Why not notice Him in the world around us? Why not feel?!?!

Scripture Power – 1 Nephi 17:23-42

You can read 1 Nephi 17:23-42 here.

Context and General Information

  • After Laman and Lemuel tried to dissuade Nephi from building the boat, Nephi responds to them in faith.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of their ancestors – which records were kept in the scriptures. He talks about how Moses and the children of Israel escaped from Egypt and were delivered to their own promised land.
  • Nephi recounts a few of the miracles that the Lord did to help the children of Israel – parting the Red Sea, leading them by and and giving them light by night, giving them manna, providing water for them in the wilderness, etc. Everything was done according to the word of the Lord.
  • Nephi also reminded Laman and Lemuel that the reason why the Lord let Israel inhabit a land filled with other people is because those people had become wicked. The Lord esteems all flesh in one. He is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t favor a group of people because of their pedigree. He favors those that keep His law. And those who do not keep the commandments cannot be protected by Him.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord created the earth to be inhabited. We have been blessed to be able to possess the earth.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord loves and will covenant with those who will have Him be their God. He covenanted with their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The covenant isn’t just a set of carte-blanche blessings. When the children of Israel hardened their hearts in the wilderness, the Lord straitened them with the rod. He sent fiery flying serpents among them, they were bitten, and he prepared a way for them to be healed. All they had to do was look, but many didn’t and chose to perish instead.
  • The children of Israel, from time to time, hardened their hearts against God and His prophet, Moses.
  • Despite their rebellion from time to time, the children of Israel were eventually led away from bondage in Egypt and to a land of promise.

Scripture Power

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look up to Nephi. He was faithful, optimistic, and courageous. In fact, there is a song that the children sing: Nephi was courageous.

I like Nephi, and I do think that he was courageous. That is indisputable. But I do think that sometimes we mythicize Nephi in a way that is unfair to him. I think that sometimes we just call him courageous, and end it there. It is a bit problematic.

I think that we forget he was a normal dude, and because of the choices he made, he was strengthened. What I mean is – he wasn’t just magically courageous. He actually made choices and did things that we can also do! we can become courageous like him.

In the children’s song, “Nephi’s Courage,” the the third verse states:

“. The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.” – Bill N. Hansen, “Nephi’s Courage”

I really like this song. We can learn from Nephi. He truly was courageous. And yes, it is simple. We can choose to trust in God. We can choose to be courageous.

That’s the thing…Nephi didn’t know how he would make a boat, but he had full trust in the Lord. This trust in the Lord came from his humility and willingness to pray (we read about that in 1 Nephi 2); it came from his willingness to exercise his faith and put the Lord to the test (and succeeding! – we read about this many times – when he got the plates in 1 Nephi 3 and 4 for starters); his trust in the Lord was cultivated when Nephi took time to notice and remember the tender mercies of the Lord (which he recounts in 1 Nephi 15).

This trust in the Lord is what makes Nephi courageous in the face of trial, danger, and what seems to be “the impossible.”

In 1 Nephi 17, we read of another source of Nephi’s courage and trust in God. He has seen the Lord work in the lives of other people. These experiences inspire Nephi, give him hope, and facilitate his trust in God. They encourage Nephi to believe that the Lord will empower him, as well. The experiences that inspire Nephi were recorded and handed down from generation to generation. They are the scriptures.

The primary children also sing a song called “Scripture Power,” and I can’t help but think of Nephi when I hear the words of this song…specifically the line “scripture power is the power to win!”

Nephi already had the strength and the faith to complete the task that the Lord gave him, I know this. But I really think that the scriptures were a major part of the strength and faith that Nephi had cultivated in his life. And now that his brothers are mocking and questioning his obedience, Nephi uses the scriptures to persuade his brothers that they can obey and they can build a boat.

Nephi reminds Laman and Lemuel of their own ancestors – the children of Israel – and their flight from Egypt. There was nothing logical about this escape. It was miraculous. It was all dependent on their faith and trust in God.

Nephi reminds his brothers that:

  • Moses and the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry ground.
  • The Egyptians followed the Israelites and were drowned in the Red Sea.
  • The children of Israel were fed in the wilderness with manna from heaven.
  • Moses smote the rock and it brought forth water for the Israelites.
  • The Lord led them by day in a cloud and gave them light by night.
  • The Lord punished them and blessed them according to their faith and His word.
  • The children of Israel not only escaped from bondage, but were led to a promised land. The Lord fulfilled His promises.

Though Nephi has never built a boat, their situation is not unprecedented. The Lord has power to deliver and has delivered, strengthened, and supported his people throughout time. Nephi knew that the Lord was capable of delivering him and his family because He had done it before. Nephi knew that if the Lord could free the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, if the Lord could part the Red Sea, if the Lord could feed them manna from heaven, if the Lord could bring them water from rocks, if the Lord could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness to a promised land, then the Lord could help Nephi build a boat. The Lord could deliver Nephi and his family.

And what is the condition for such deliverance – strict obedience to the words of the Lord. If Nephi wanted to be delivered (which I think he did!), then he needed to obey the commandments that the Lord gave him. In this instance, the commandment was to build a boat. So that is what Nephi must do. It may sound insane, but Nephi knows through his own experiences and through the testimonies recorded in the scriptures that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Nephi’s faith and trust in the Lord gives him the courage he needs to get the job done – and to persuade his brothers to help!

***

I love this example. I have needed it in my own life. I can’t even begin to guess how many times the stories of the scriptures have helped me to cultivate the faith I needed to have courage through my own trials. The Lord gives us commandments – both general and very specific, and He wants us to obey. And why does He want us to obey…so He can bless us!

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend. I had a very distinct impression:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

So often, when we face obstacles in our lives, they may be overcome in more than one way. The Lord will help us to overcome our obstacles, that is the truth. However, I am learning that He doesn’t always do the thing that seems to be the most intuitive to us. Maybe His way takes longer than we would like. His way might cost us more money, more time, or other sacrifices. Often His way requires more faith!

But we must trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding. We must have courage in the face of affliction. We must trust His inspiration when facing and overcoming the obstacles in our lives. And why? Well, because He is interested not only in our immediate successes in life, but also in the big picture. He has a work and a glory – to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

If we will do things His way, then we can rest assured that we will be delivered from the real problem: death and hell. We can rest assured that we will do our work on earth and receive comfort and joy – both now and in the life to come.

Nephi always trusted in the Lord. He didn’t fight with the Lord to do thing his way. Yes – there were times when Nephi had to figure out solutions to his problems. But this was not done at the expense of inspiration he received from God. Nephi’s courage to keep the commandments with exactness is what enabled him to be delivered from the trials of the wilderness and inherit a promised land.

If we will have the courage to trust God and obey Him with exactness, then we will also be enabled, empowered, and delivered.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures! We have the example of Moses. We have the example of Nephi. We have the examples of so many who did and who did not follow the Lord! If we will utilize the scriptures in our lives as Nephi did, then we will also have the power to win!