Read today’s scripture block – 1 Nephi 5:20-22 here.
Context and General Information
- Lehi and Nephi had kept the commandments of the Lord so far.
- They obtained the plates of brass – according to the wisdom of the Lord. These plates would aid them in traveling to the promised land.
Keeping the Commandments Gives us Confidence
I love the following scripture:
“And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.” – 1 Nephi 5:20
It’s so simple. Nephi takes the time to proclaim that he and his father had kept all of the commandments that the Lord had given them, personally.
So far, these commandments included:
- Any of the already well-known commandments…Such as the ten commandments, giving sacrifices, tithes, and offerings, etc.
- Preach repentance to the people of Jerusalem.
- Flee from Jerusalem because the people wanted to kill them.
- Follow the promptings of the Lord to get to a promised land.
- Return to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass.
- Study the scriptures engraven on the plates of brass.
Other than the first point – to keep all general commandments like the Sabbath day or giving offerings, the rest of the commandments that were kept by Nephi and Lehi were personal promptings or commandments.
I feel like I have overlooked the validity and importance of these commandments. Maybe because we don’t call them commandments. We call them “inspiration” or possibly “promptings.” We tend to downplay that these are personal commandments from God.
Yet, the truth is, these promptings are personal commandments to us from God.
Nephi kept these commandments, and at this point is able to say that he had kept the commandments that the Lord had given them. He isn’t saying this to brag. It is a statement of truth, and in my opinion it gives him confidence.
I think that in the past, I have underestimated the importance of personal commandments, revelations, or promptings. I have thought that these can be dismissed as optional. And, of course it is always our choice to do anything. We don’t have to keep the commandments, but we have to remember that if we don’t keep the commandments we are given, then we can’t receive the blessings associated with those commandments.
You can read more about Nephi and personal commandments here.
Nephi didn’t underestimate the importance of personal commandments. He took them seriously, and then, after the difficulty of doing as he had been commanded, he can evaluate and say, I kept the commandments.
It would feel really good.
I think that these little checkpoints – in keeping the commandments – help to give us confidence to continue on. Think about it – this is 1 Nephi 5. Lehi, Nephi, and their family has a long way to go – many more years. They will need all of the strength and confidence that they can get in order to make it to the promised land.
“Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.” – 1 Nephi 5:22
Nephi is talking about carrying the plates of brass with them in the wilderness as they journey to the promised land. Notice that last phrase, “as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.”
After getting those plates, they knew that they had left Jerusalem for good. They won’t be going back. There isn’t a “plan b.” It’s promised land or bust. They didn’t have a set date for the promised land. They didn’t say, “If we don’t make it to the promised land in 459 days, then we’ll just turn back to Jerusalem.”
They were going to the promised land – even though they didn’t know where it was, they didn’t know how to get there, and they didn’t know how long it would take. There were no landmarks, no checkpoints. It was just a journey that they were on for as long as it took to arrive.
Because there were no “checkpoints” or landmarks, the Lord blessed them in other ways. The commandments he gave to Lehi and Nephi were such blessings. Being able to say “I’ve kept all of the commandments,” blessed them with the confidence to keep moving forward on an unknown path to an unknown promised land.
I will give a personal example. In late 2004, I found myself at a major crossroads in my marriage. My ex-husband was not really…into marriage…let’s say. I had huge decisions to make. I remember feeling a distinct prompting: that if I stayed married, then my eternal life and possibly the eternal lives of my daughters were at stake.
Even though I had the choice, I knew that I was prompted to get divorced. Perhaps Nephi would have called it a commandment. In any case, I chose to listen to the Lord. I divorced and started my life as a single-mom in her mid-twenties.
Divorcing was a difficult decision to make. I was living in my mom’s house with my two girls. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t even know where to start. I remember reading statistics about women, children, and divorce, and the statistics were against me. But, I also knew that this is what the Lord prompted me to do. I knew that he wasn’t setting me up for failure. I knew that he would help me to keep the commandments that He had given me. Because I moved forward in faith and obedience, I was blessed.
I found a job. I bought a car. We were getting on our feet.
Fast forward about a year and half. In mid-2006, I was on a run with my kids one day after work. They were riding their bikes, and I was running along and we were approaching our house.
I can’t really describe the feeling that washed over me as we approached our home. Well, I know what it was – confidence. This was mine. It was my house. Made possible because I was keeping the commandments of the Lord.
My dad didn’t get me this house. My mom didn’t get it for me. I found my own job. Bought my own car. Signed my own contract for a cell phone. Saved my own money. Paid my own deposit. And paid rent each month on my own for this little one-bedroom house in Chester County, PA.
It was cold, drafty, there was a huge pile of nuts in one of the closets -obviously a squirrel’s stash…it was perfect for me and my two girls. We were safe and cozy. A neighbor had several cats. One of those cats adopted us and slept on our front porch most nights. He helped to keep the mice and squirrels away!
Of course I had help from my family. None of us can really do anything alone, but while running up this back country road, I felt the confidence that comes when we can say, “thus far I had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord hath commanded me.” I felt the confidence that comes when we see that the Lord will empower us and enable us to keep the commandments.
I still had a long road ahead of me then. I wouldn’t meet Homey for several more months. I still had to deal with child support issues, work, bosses, holidays, parent-teacher conferences, and everything else that a single, working mom must juggle in order to survive. Not only did I have a long road ahead of me, but I actually knew I that I had a long road ahead of me. I didn’t know how long it would be, but I knew I hadn’t quite yet reached my promised land.
But the Lord blessed me with the confidence that comes from keeping the commandments. And that confidence is what fuels us as we push forward on our own unknown paths toward our own unknown promised lands.
So – this is one of my favorite scriptures. It’s a good litmus test. How am I doing? The Lord doesn’t measure “how we’re doing” on our possessions, bank accounts, or callings. We shouldn’t either. The thing we each need to focus on is being able to be like Nephi and say that we have kept all of the commandments God has given us.