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.

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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!

We Might Have Been Happy – 1 Nephi 17:21-22

You can read 1 Nephi 17:21-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel are murmuring against Nephi.
  • They complain about their journey in the wilderness – that they suffered. They complain that instead of suffering in the wilderness, they could have been in Jerusalem and enjoying their possessions. They claim that “they might have been happy.”
  • They say that they know that the people of Jerusalem had been righteous. That they kept the statutes of the Lord.
  • Laman and Lemuel say that Lehi wrongly judged the people of Jerusalem and then led his family away because they would listen to him.

We Might Have Been Happy

Yesterday we studied a little bit about Laman and Lemuel and their response to discovering that Nephi was going to build a boat. You can read it here. They had a problem for every good solution. They had no solutions whatsoever, and then a list of ill-contrived complaints.

Complaint One – Suffering in the Wilderness for Years

Okay. So this legitimately happened. Even Nephi expressed:

“And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:1

Of course, Nephi’s response to the recognition of such trial is very different than Laman’s and Lemuel’s. Instead of complaining about these trials, Nephi is quick to notice the blessings that they experienced that helped them to bear these trials better. Nephi, even in the midst of trial, could find the tender mercies of the Lord. He could find reasons to be happy and rejoice.

And that begs the question – would Laman and Lemuel have been happy if they wouldn’t have suffered any afflictions? The answer is No.

Happiness does not mean that we live in a vacuum – free from any kind of trials or afflictions. This is such a basic thing to understand, and we must understand it, otherwise we will make the same mistake as Laman and Lemuel did. We will constantly think that the grass is greener over there…that if only our conditions were perfect, then we’d be happy.

This really could be the topic for an entire book, but what is coming to mind right now, is that we need to recognize there is a connection between sacrifice and joy. If you think of the most joyful experiences you have had, I bet that there was a measure of sacrifice that you endured to get there.

For example, I have joy in my children. And trust me – I’ve sacrificed for them. Even before they were born, I was sacrificing. Every good parent that has joy in their children has made a sacrifice.

I had joy when I crossed the finish line of a marathon. This required hours and miles of sacrifice.

I had joy when finishing a hike and viewing a magnificent vista. But the view didn’t come easy. It was work to get here!

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You can’t just drive here. You have to get out of your car and hike. But the walk is worth the crisp air, the pine scent, the blue skies, and the clear view.

Now, they hadn’t come to their promised land yet, so even though Nephi could see the tender mercies of the Lord, doesn’t mean that he had experienced the full measure of happiness that would make the sacrifices feel like nothing at all. He still felt the weight of the sacrifices. But he clung to hope – that the Lord would deliver them from their afflictions and trials, and that they would soon experience the joy of being at the promised land. They would experience the joy of knowing that they had crossed the wilderness and the many waters; they endured; and they were able to live freely and blessed by the Lord.

The happiness was yet to come. But the happiness would only come as they sacrificed and endured their trials well – not because they never faced a trial in the first place.

Complaint Two – We Might Have Enjoyed Our Possessions

This is an interesting one.

I suppose it is connected to the first complaint – being in the wilderness. They had to leave all of their comforts and possessions to go into the wilderness.

Not only that, but maybe this is also in reference to what they lost back in chapter 3 – when they tried to “buy” the plates of brass from Laban, and instead he stole all of their precious things and tried to kill them, to boot.

In any case, Laman and Lemuel complained because they haven’t been able to enjoy their possessions. And, as I said before, it’s kind of interesting.

There is something enjoyable about possessions. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. We have gotten rid of 95% of what we own for the moves we have made in the last few years. Yes, there are times when I miss some of my stuff.

But, for the most part, I have learned how little we really need. And while possessions can be enjoyed, and they can make life easier, I know that it isn’t our possessions that make us happy.

Complaint Three – We Might Have Enjoyed the Land of Our Inheritance

I can also see how this would be difficult. They left their land – their home, their friends, the conveniences, the culture – to wander in the wilderness. It would be hard.

By the way – even though Nephi never complains against God, he also never calls these experiences easy. They are afflictions. They are trials. But Nephi accepts these trials with the faith that 1) the Lord will strengthen him. 2) They will soon make it to the promised land. 3) The Promised land will be even better.

So – yeah – the trials are hard. It was hard for them to move away.

However, their assumption that they could have “enjoyed the land of their inheritance,” might be off. Their father would have been killed. Lehi fled for his life. I don’t think that Lehi would have been around for the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. He would have died at the hands of the Jews before that time came.

And who knows how this would have effected Laman and Lemuel. They would have been the son of a condemned prophet. I don’t think that they would have done much “enjoying” of their land of inheritance. I don’t think that they have a good idea of the reality of their situation back in Jerusalem.

Complaint Four – We Might Have Been Happy

Sounds like a nice argument. But just because Laman and Lemuel think and say this, doesn’t make it true.

Happy?! In 586 BC, about 14 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Jerusalem was invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians. This destruction was recorded and described by the prophet Jeremiah in a book called Lamentations (doesn’t sound all that happy to me).

The condition of Jerusalem was deplorable when the Babylonian takeover happened. Many were killed. Others were forced into slavery. The people were distressed, forsaken, and utterly powerless. Children and babies wasted away – with hunger – in the streets of Jerusalem.

This is not the land of inheritance that Laman and Lemuel had in mind, but it was the reality.

I highly doubt that Laman and Lemuel would have liked this scenario. I doubt that they would have then repeated the refrain, “We might have been happy.” Because they wouldn’t have been happy.

***

The problem with murmuring and complaining, as Laman and Lemuel did, is that it will blind us to the truth.

And one more thing – do you really think, with the kind of attitude that Laman and Lemuel had, they would have ever been happy?

I don’t think it’s possible. I think that no matter what – even if the conditions of their lives were “perfect,” they would have found something to complain about. They would have created another fantasy-filled alternatives and then complained about perceived “wrongs.”

We need to learn from Laman’s and Lemuel’s mistakes. We need to remember the root of their murmuring:

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

We need to learn from them and then strive to be close to the Lord and understand His dealings. It is through understanding His dealings and accepting some of the sacrifices that come with His dealings that will lead us to true happiness and joy.

It Is By The Lord That We Are Led – 1 Nephi 17:10-16

You can read 1 Nephi 17:10-16 here.

Context and General Information

  • The Lord told Nephi where to go find ore to make tools.
  • Nephi made a bellows out of the skin of beasts to blow the fire. Then, he smote two stones together to make fire.
  • Up to this point, Nephi hadn’t made many fires on the journey in the wilderness. The Lord instructed them not to and made other arrangements for them. He made their food become “sweet” so they didn’t need to cook it.
  • The Lord also promised to be their light in the wilderness. He prepared the way for them. If they kept His commandments, then they would be led toward a promised land. Also, after arriving at the promised land, they would know that it was the Lord that delivered them from destruction. And that He is God.
  • So – Nephi strived to keep the commandments and motivated his brothers to do the same.
  • And Nephi made tools out of the ore which he melted out of the rock.

It Is by the Lord that We Are Led

We often say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. And here, we see it again. Even though the Lord works in mysterious ways, the purpose isn’t so mysterious.

So – earlier in chapter 17, Nephi asked the Lord:

” And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” –1 Nephi 17:9

And then we read:

“And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.” – 1 Nephi 17:10

Once Nephi knows where to find the ore, he makes a bellows, and then makes a fire. And then Nephi lets us in on this fact about their journey – a fact that he had hinted at earlier in the chapter:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness;…” – 1 Nephi 17:12

The Lord commanded them not to make much fire. And if we think back, the only times I guess that they made fire would be the times when they were offering sacrifices of burnt offerings to Him. (See 1 Nephi 2:7,1 Nephi 5:9, 1 Nephi 7:22.)

I am so familiar with the story of Nephi’s journey to the promised land, that I haven’t put much thought into this idea. I’ve always known that the Lord commanded Lehi’s family not to make many fires. And that He would make their meat “sweet” to them – as if it had been cooked. Okay. That’s fine with me. I accept it. If the Lord can cause Manna to come down to the children of Israel while in the wilderness, why wouldn’t he be able to “cook” the food for Lehi and his family?

I’ve never had a problem with this detail. I’ve never had a question about it. I’ve never really put much thought into it.

But maybe it’s good to right now…because I don’t think that the only reason the Lord did this for them is the same as what I assumed in the past.

In the past, I kind of thought that the reason the Lord had them make few fires was for their safety. (And I still think that this was a reason). Hugh Nibley explored this concept in one of his writings. (You can read it here).His ideas have permeated our Latter-day Saint Culture – for good reason, too. I think that he is partially right.

If Nephi and his family were burning fires in the Arabian Peninsula, they would have attracted a lot of attention. They would have put themselves into a bit of danger. Remember, this is a harsh land. Food isn’t easy to come by. They would have been easy targets for marauders and others that might have tried to attack them. The Lord didn’t want Nephi and his family to fail on their journey to the promised land, so He gave them a commandment that would protect them. After arriving to the Promised land, this would not be a commandment they had to keep. It was just a temporary one.

But here’s a question. God could perform miracles. God gave them a Liahona. God taught Nephi how to make a boat! God caused manna to come down for the children of Israel. Why did God have them not make fires? Why didn’t he just let them make fires and then give them a miracle of protection?

Well, the Lord answers that Himself in the Book of Mormon. We read:

“For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:12-14

The Lord knew that the commandment He gave them – not to build many fires – would result in a few problems, so he also posed solutions.
Problems and Solutions
One – How to Cook Food Without Fire? The Lord would make their food become “sweet,” so they didn’t need to cook it.
Two – Who Will Be their Light in the Wilderness – The Lord would be their light. He would prepare the way for them. We don’t have more details on this, but just imagine it. The night would be pretty dark without any fires. And night can come pretty early certain times of the year! Right now, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, sunset is at 6:14 PM. Early nights. Not much traveling when the days get short! (Of course, there was probably substantial traveling during the cooler times of the year – the problem, sunset comes earlier!)…So even though we don’t have more detail on how the Lord was their light in the wilderness, we know that He was. Metaphorically, and I think probably also literally.

Addressing these problems and solutions doesn’t really address why the Lord did what He did. And we do postulate. We say, well, it kept them safe from raiding parties. But this isn’t what the reason that the Lord gave. The Lord tells us why:

“…and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 17:13-14

The Lord understands every law of nature, physics, chemistry, biology. He can do what He wants because He understands the workings of this world He created. And yes, He does support us. He will be our light in the wilderness. He will provide for us. But he doesn’t always make things easy for us just because. He usually provides for us in a way that still tries our faith so we can learn the exact thing He was trying to teach Nephi – that it was the Lord God, and ONLY HIM that delivered us.

Imagine for a moment if Nephi and his family did have fire. If they traveled that dangerous Arabian Peninsula with light and a means to cook their meat. And imagine if the Lord had performed another miracle that gave them safety despite the fires that they built.

I think that it would easy for them to remain ignorant. They didn’t know the land. They were from Jerusalem. Mecca is 1,000 miles from Jerusalem This is a 15 hour drive. To Yemen, close to where Lehi’s family might have changed directions (perhaps Nehor) – it is a 1,500 mile journey. And then from the possible location of Nehor to the possible location of Bountiful is about 950 miles or so. (Depending on the route they took, of course).

I know that all of this is speculative. But follow me for a second. They were more than a thousand miles away from their home! I haven’t really taken the time to appreciate this fact. They didn’t know the area. They didn’t truly understand the danger. And if Heavenly Father had allowed them to cook their food while performing a miracle of keeping them safe then they might not have understood the danger they were in. Maybe they would have arrived to the Promised Land and naively thought that they did it themselves even though God was protecting them. They could have naively thought that they directed their own path, found and cooked their own food, and that they didn’t really need the Lord to deliver them. They never would have been aware of the danger.

It seems like they still weren’t super aware of the danger (if they are, then Nephi doesn’t share it in the record that we have).

So the Lord, through the commandment He gave (not to have fires) and the miracles He performed (cooking their food and being a light in the desert) Both kept them safe and gave them an experience that kept them reliant on Him and strengthened their testimony in Him.

Nephi states:

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.” – 1 Nephi 17:15

Because of this commandment, challenge, and miracle – Nephi was motivated to strive to keep the commandments of God. He also was able to convince his brothers to do the same. They needed God. They needed God’s miracles. So they needed to obey.

***

Wrapping this up.

I think that the Lord does the same things in our lives. He gives us commandments that seem strange – maybe counterintuitive. He gives us commandments that seem harder than another more obvious option. And, during the trial, when we keep His commandments, we are blessed, but we are also still challenged. They often require faith.

I mean, think about Nephi and his family. I assume it was an act of faith to bite into a raw steak. I think that his family probably looked forward to cooking their food later on. Think about the children of Israel. Every night, they went to sleep wondering, would it still rain Manna tomorrow?

Even when we’re keeping the commandments, and we are being blessed, faith is required during the trial!

I have experienced this in my own life, and this scripture actually gives me great comfort. I have tried to follow the commandments I have received from God (the promptings, the impressions, etc), even when it seems counterintuitive. Even when, at times, I’ve been criticized by others.

Recently, I had this experience, defending why I was making certain decisions. In explaining this, I realized, If I really want to succeed, then I must do this the Lord’s way. What good is it to achieve my goal if at the end, I lose my faith in God. What good is it to achieve my goal if I then am filled with naivete and pride – thinking that I did this myself? If I do this the Lord’s way, then not only will I achieve my goal, but I will do it in a way that my soul stays intact.

So – I think that this is why the Lord commanded Nephi and his family not to make fire. What good would it have been if they made it to the promised land, but forgot God in the process? By experiencing this commandment, the trial that it gave them, and the miracle that ensued because of their faith, Nephi and his family were able to make it to the promised land safely, and also knowing that God led them safely to deliverance.

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.

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.

Anger, Lies, and Persuasion – 1 Nephi 16:36-39

You can read 1 Nephi 16:36-39 here.

Context and General Information

  • Everyone starts murmuring against Lehi and Nephi. They say that they want to go back to Jerusalem.
  • Laman and Lemuel use this as an opportunity to make a wicked suggestion: to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Laman and Lemuel manipulate the truth and lie in order to persuade the others to kill Lehi and Nephi.
  • Thankfully the Lord steps in. He spoke to them and chastised them. They turned away their anger, repented of their sins, and then were once again blessed with food so that they did not perish.

Persuasion and Lies

The verses included in these verses have always been interesting to me. First of all, I’m interested in the idea of persuasion. I feel like it often has a negative connotation, but really it is neither positive or negative. It’s just a thing.

In the dictionary, we learn the real definition of persuade:

Persuade
1: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action
2 : to plead with : URGE – Merriam Webster

Persuasion is the simple act of trying to move another person. When we understand that this is the case, then we will also find that often people have many motives of persuasion and different ways to persuade others. These aren’t always good! This is where the bad stuff may come in.

We are taught in the Doctrine and Covenants that power or influence over others ought NOT to be maintained – by force. Instead of unrighteous dominion, Priesthood leaders (and probably other leaders, too), should lead others through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, etc.

Persuading others – to believe in the Savior Jesus Christ, to do good – is okay!

NOW.

We should look at it from the other side, too. We have to remember that there are forces at play trying to persuade us to do one thing or another. Yes, we have the prophets (ancient and modern) who are persuading us to come closer to Christ. We have good friends, teachers, leaders, and family members who are doing the same. There are good people around us who are persuading us to be better people because they love us and they want us to be happy.

Then, there are people who are trying to persuade us for other reasons. They want power, they are selfishly motivated. They don’t care about us – other than they need us for some reason or another. They need our money. They need our support. But they don’t intend to lift us up or see us happy!

We are surrounded by persuading voices. It is easy to think of politicians. But also commercials, sociopaths, internet trolls. Whatever.

In 1 Nephi, we read how Laman and Lemuel tried to persuade their brethren:

“And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.

38 Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:37-38

I think that if we study this experience, we can learn how not to be persuaded by little jerks like Laman and Lemuel.

Heart Conditions

Remember what we read in the verse before:

“And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 16:36

Notice the condition of the hearts of the brethren of Nephi. They were upset. They were murmuring. Because of their anger, the Spirit of the Lord wasn’t with them anymore. They were so irrational that they expressed the desire to return back to Jerusalem – despite the extreme hardships they endured to get to the point they were at!

The angered state is not a good state to be able to think spiritually or rationally, so if we are worked up into an anger, we are very easily persuaded by those who don’t have our best interest in mind. We are already stirred up. We aren’t seeing clearly. We need to fight to stay in a positive state – one that is open to the truth and the Spirit of the Lord.

This is really resonating with me right now. We are surrounded by this. There are news agencies and politicians banking on us losing our wits and then buying into anything they say by getting us angry.

Laman and Lemuel were perceptive enough to see their chance. Everyone was angry enough for them to voice their murderous idea – to kill Lehi (their father!) and Nephi (their Brother!)

Lies!

Laman and Lemuel don’t just stop there – with this idea to kill Lehi and Nephi. Instead, they give their reasons, which are laced with lies.

If the sons of Ishmael and others who were listening to this argument had their wits about them, I think that they would have seen the incredible irony in what Laman and Lemuel were saying versus the actual truth.

What Laman and Lemuel Said – Versus the Actual Truth

  1. Laman and Lemuel:“…Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.”

    Actual Truth – Nephi didn’t seek to be a ruler or a teacher over his brothers. Nephi is loyal to God and willing to do what God asks Him. In fact, Laman and Lemuel knew exactly why Nephi was chosen to lead them. The angel told them this as Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi and Sam with a rod:

    “…Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?…” – 1 Nephi 3:29

    Laman and Lemuel are manipulating the truth to engender more anger and persuade the others to go along with their evil plan. Yes, it is true that Nephi has become a sort of leader over them. But it isn’t because he sought power over them. And they know it. They know that their own iniquities have disqualified them from being leaders themselves.

  2. Laman and Lemuel:“…Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness…”

    Actual Truth: – Nephi did see angels! They know this! They were there when an angel ministered to him! And this wasn’t the only time. An angel taught him the meaning of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. His brothers were in Lehi’s tent arguing. Nephi wasn’t there! And when Nephi returned, he was able to teach his brother the meaning of Lehi’s words. Laman and Lemuel once again are twisting the truth. They know that Nephi has borne testimony to them of these experiences.

    Not only that, but it wasn’t Nephi’s idea to go into the wilderness. It was Lehi who had received the commandment to go to the wilderness, and many people – other than Lehi – had also received a witness of this command.

  3. Laman and Lemuel:“… But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes,…”

    Actual Truth: This is almost getting comical. Laman and Lemuel are lying in the very moment! They are working cunning arts – taking advantage of people’s emotions! They are deceiving the eyes of the rest of the people in their party.

    If the others weren’t so blinded by their own murmuring, then one of them might have had the wits to say, “Wait a minute…aren’t you lying right now?! Didn’t you also see an angel?! Why are you trying to use your ‘cunning arts’ to deceive us and have us kill them?!

    Laman and Lemuel are guilty of exactly what they leverage against Nephi. It’s kind of disgusting. (And it happens all the time still…I won’t go into examples, but I’m sure you can think of some).

  4. Laman and Lemuel:“…and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. …”

    Actual Truth: THIS IS WHAT LAMAN AND LEMUEL WANT TO DO! They want to become the rulers and leaders over the people so they can do with them according to their will and pleasure. They pretend like getting rid of Nephi and Lehi will grant them “freedom.” Instead, and everyone there should know this by now killing Nephi will ensure their death.

    They are in the wilderness. They are somewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. It isn’t a particularly hospitable climate. They aren’t a stone’s throw from Jerusalem. They have been traveling months, if not years by now.

    They have already nearly died from starvation in the wilderness, and they were only sustained by Nephi’s faith and wits – to make a bow and arrow and go hunt for food.

    Laman and Lemuel aren’t interested in the truth, though. They are interested in something else. They want their father and their brother eliminated so that they can have power. They can’t go out and say this, though. Instead, they decide to appeal to the anger of the people who are in distress.

    It’s all completely insane.

More Anger

We read:

“…And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.” – 1 Nephi 16:38

So – the sons of Ishmael (and others) were angry. Laman and Lemuel used this anger to persuade them of their evil idea. Laman and Lemuel were, unfortunately, effective. The people became angrier.

This is where we have to be careful. In their anger, which was based on a series of fallacies, they had decided that murder would be a good idea. They had been persuaded to break a pretty major commandment!

What Can We Learn from This?

Overall, the thought I keep having is that we need to do everything we can to be worthy of the Spirit. We need to do what we can not to be blinded by the deception of the Devil.

Marion G. Romney stated:

“We know that there is available to each of us the gift of the Holy Ghost—the power of revelation which embraces the gift of discernment by which we may unerringly detect the devil and the counterfeits he is so successfully foisting upon this gullible generation.” – Marion G. Romney

If we stay close to the Spirit, then we will not succumb to the Devil or those who have evil motives.

***

Laman, Lemuel, and the rest are extremely blessed. The Lord himself stopped this. He spoke to the entire party, chastised them – and they repented. If Laman and Lemuel had been able to go with their plan, then not only would Lehi and Nephi have died, but the rest of them would have, too.

They were dependent on the Lord. They didn’t even know where to go to find food – would they really have been able to make it back to Jerusalem. Once again, the righteousness of Nephi saves this group as they journey to the promised land.

And we can learn – we can learn not to let ourselves be deceived. We can do this by keeping our emotions in check – not allowing ourselves to get angry. We can do this by staying close to the Spirit so that we have the Spirit of discernment and charity.

From Mourning to Murmuring – 1 Nephi 16:34-36

You can read 1 Nephi 16:34-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Ishmael died, and they buried him in “Nahom.” (Nahom means consolation, be sorry)
  • The daughters of Ishmael mourned exceedingly for the loss of their father. Their mourning turned to murmuring against Lehi. They murmured about being brought out to the wilderness, affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.
  • They also murmured against Nephi and desire to return to Jerusalem.

From Mourning to Murmuring

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness” – 1 Nephi 16:35

As I think about mourning, I can’t help but think of the words uttered by the Savior, Himself:

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

The Lord doesn’t promise that when we are keeping His commandments, then we will be freed of life’s trials. The Lord didn’t tell Lehi, Nephi, or anyone else in the family that the path to the promised land would be simple, easy, and free of difficulty.

I don’t know what the Lord said to Lehi, specifically, when he urged him to flee from Jerusalem.

I do know the personal experiences I’ve had, though. A few years ago, my husband and I were considering the idea of starting our own business. It was an idea that we had been throwing around for a while. So we did it. My husband has always wanted to do his own thing, rather than work in the corporate world. He started working on several ideas, and would do this after he came home from his corporate job.

Eventually, we got to the point where we needed to make a decision. He needed to spend more time on his business if it was going to really work. We had to make a decision – whether or not we should take the risk of him quitting his job and devoting his time to his business instead.

We discussed it, prayed, about it and felt it was the right thing to do. And this is the point that I want to bring up: When we made this decision – I remember – it was an evening after work. We were sitting on the couch discussing. We both were feeling a surge of energy – the energy that comes from the Spirit, when you are on the right track. We knew we should do it. And immediately, in my heart, I also felt the spirit prompt me with a feeling – remember the pattern…You will be pushed to your limit, but don’t worry – that’s when you’ll be delivered.

What does that mean? The Lord blessed me with an understanding before the challenges even came that the challenges would indeed come. He didn’t give us the warm feeling that we should start our business, and that everything would work out quickly and easily. We knew the pattern – it would be hard. We would be pushed and tested. But if we would rely on His Spirit with complete diligence, then – just when it seemed like failure was sure – we would be delivered. This is just how it works. There are examples of this pattern time and time again – both in the scriptures and in the world, at large.

ANYWAY.

What I’m trying to say is – I kind of wonder if Lehi had a prompting like this at some point – that the path would be hard, but if he would trust in the Lord, then he would surely make it to the promised land. Not sure.

The death of Ishmael was one of those low points. And back to what I was writing before. The Lord didn’t promise that He would shield Lehi and his family from the “low points.” Instead, we know that the Lord will strengthen us and comfort us – even as we navigate the difficulties of the path.

As Lehi taught to his son, Jacob, later on:

“Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Our afflictions can be consecrated for our gain, and I think that this fact is what helps us to be comforted when we mourn. We have no need to fear. I’m reminded of the scripture:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

In this scripture, Jesus is talking to His apostles. He has just washed their feet, and had the last supper with them. Judas has gone to betray Him. The Savior has taught the rest of the Apostles about “many mansions.” He has taught them that He is the Way. He has taught them to love one another. He has promised them the comforter. He has taught that He is the Vine. He has taught them about the Holy Ghost. He has taught them of His death and resurrection.

He will not be with them much longer, and they will have a mission to carry on His work without Him. It will not be easy. In the world, they will experience tribulation, but they shouldn’t fear – He has overcome the world.

So, yes, life in the wilderness for Lehi and his family was hard. And yes – they experienced a variety of afflictions. Hunger, thirst, heat, fatigue, and now death. I don’t think it would have been easy. Not even remotely easy.

But in the time of mourning, we need to seek the Lord. If we do, then we will have the opportunity to be comforted.

Receiving Comfort Is A Choice

The Lord truly honors our agency.

Even though He has promised that they that mourn will be comforted, He will not force His comfort. When we mourn, we can turn to Him and find comfort, or we can “refuse to be comforted.” Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:

“We, too, can “refuse to be comforted.” … Or, like Enoch, we can be intellectually meek enough to look and to accept the truths about God’s being there and about His personality and plans.” – Neal A. Maxwell

When we choose to accept the comfort of God during our times of mourning, the experience becomes holy. It may not be something we want to experience again, but we will see the benefit of it. We will be grateful for the blessings that came out of the harrowing experience.

However, if we choose not to accept the comfort of God during our times of mourning, then what usually follows is a hardening of our hearts…and murmuring.

This is exactly what happened with the daughters of Ishmael:

“…and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.

36 And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 16:35-36

And notice the result of such murmuring. They desired to return to Jerusalem! Let’s think about that for a minute. We have been reading how they have been traveling, traveling, and traveling. In chapter 16, alone, we read that they travelled for the “space of many days” three different times. And this is much later on in their journey.

Going back to Jerusalem was not a very rational idea. Most likely, they would have died if they attempted it. Their inconsolable mourning, their choice to refuse comfort, and then their murmuring blinded their minds to rational ideas and risks! And how often does this happen to us?

How often do we get frustrated, do we murmur, and then we wish to take some action that will actually take us farther away from our goal?

Not only that, but this idea – to return to Jerusalem – how does it honor their father’s memory? How might Ishmael feel that He suffered and even died in the wilderness, and after all of His sacrifices, his children turned around and went back to Jerusalem?!?! Where they would die!?!?!? If they would have gone back, then Ishmael’s death would have been in vain.

Murmuring…once again, we see that there is no point to it. It is a complete waste of time. There isn’t a single advantage. It blinds us, it makes us stupid, it separates us from God and from comfort and happiness.

So – we can learn from this experience. We can choose, when we mourn, to accept the comfort that God promises to give. We can choose to put our burdens on the Lord and by coming unto Him and yoking ourselves to Him. We can choose to allow Him to work the miracle of turning our afflictions into blessings that strengthen and refine us.