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!

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Anger and Acceptance (1 Nephi 16:18-23)

In learning about how people navigate obstacles in their lives, I’ve observed two main reactions to adversity:

acceptance

In the past, I tended to confuse acceptance with endorsement. There are times when acceptance means, this, but a few years ago, when I started a deeper meditation practice, I came to realize that acceptance actually means something a little different. In terms of “accepting” the obstacles in our lives, it isn’t that we give a ringing endorsement, but that we are regarding it as true, we are understanding it.

anger

Anger is an emotional response to adversity.

We see both of these responses in 1 Nephi when Nephi broke his bow.

“And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.

And it came to pass that we did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food.

And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.” – 1 Nephi 16:18-23

Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael react to Nephi’s broken bow is anger. They murmur and complain. But what does it do? What is the point? They are all starving in the desert. How is standing around, murmuring or complaining going to improve their situation?

Being angry is a waste of time and energy.

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did speak much unto my brethren, because they had hardened their hearts again, even unto complaining against the Lord their God.” – 1 Nephi 16:22

Even though Nephi didn’t react with anger, no solution can be found. He is diffusing the anger of his brethren. What a waste of time! Nephi isn’t doing the wrong thing here, but notice how much effort he must make to calm their anger.

I think that this is usually the result of anger. We waste our energy on murmuring and complaining instead of resolving the solution. Additionally, we have to waste time and energy to abate our anger – before we can finally see clearly to solve our problems.

I get that there are times when we have a physical, emotional reaction. There have been times when I have been hurt that I have felt anger. But my anger never has solved anything. It usually makes things worse, then takes a lot of energy out of me before I finally shake the angry feeling.

This is why meditation and prayer is so helpful. There is not a better way to learn to detach and accept our adversities with a discerning and understanding heart than through meditation and prayer.

Finally,

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?” – 1 Nephi 16:18-23

When we use our energy to accept the problem, then we are able to find solutions! Nephi accepted his loss of a bow. I’m not sure he was feeling super gung-ho and happy about it. But he accepted it. Then he was able to analyze the situaiton and figure out a way to make a new bow.

It’s such an easy solution.

His brothers could have done the same. They could have had food before Nephi went out and procured it. But they wasted their energy and effort, which was already in limited supply, by murmuring and complaining.

Accepting and Overcoming Adversity (1 Nephi 11:32-33)

“And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.

And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” – 1 Nephi 11:32-33

The Savior is a perfect example of accepting and overcoming adversity.

At the time of Christ, many of the people didn’t believe in the Savior. They were so exasperated with Him, they had Him crucified. We read about Christ’s experience on the cross:

“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” – Matthew 27:39-43

While suffering on the cross, people mocked Christ- that he couldn’t save himself from death, even though He claimed being the Savior.

But, the thing is, suffering and dying was a part of Christ’s mission. It was an obstacle he needed to endure in order to fulfill His mission on this earth. Had he given in to weakness, then He would not have completed His divine mandate. He would not have been able to overcome death and hell. He wouldn’t have been able to save us.

As I write this, I realize that maybe there are a few distinctions while experiencing trials.

One – Obstacles
In this life, we all must face obstacles. For the most part, this is what I’m interested in learning about. These obstacles exist and persist, and depending on how we exercise our agency – these obstacles can propel us toward the future that we were designed for. They can help us to achieve the missions we were created to complete.

Christ’s obstacle was to suffer in the garden of Gethsemane and then to die on the cross. It wasn’t a judgment on His righteousness. His suffering wasn’t a curse or because He had made a wrong decision along the way. His suffering and the obstacles He faced were the way.

Two – Resistance
I’m not completely sure if there is really a difference between obstacles and resistance. To be honest, I’m writing this and thinking this at the same time. This isn’t a final draft that I’ve been formulating for a while. So – I guess I should apologize in advance.

I’m thinking that there is a difference though. I’m thinking that resistance is more than an obstacle. I feel like resistance is actually a force of evil. Again, it could be lumped into the “obstacle” part of this blog post because Heavenly Father allows us to be subjected to evil.

I also think that it is good to make the distinction because it helps us to understand that the obstacles we face aren’t always just abstract, arbitrary, events in our lives.

There is a real power that is also trying to keep us from any kind of advancement, progress or joy. This power is coming from Satan.

Satan’s primary objective is to keep us from progress. He distracts us, mocks us, poisons us, scares us – anything he must do to get us to let go of the rod. He doesn’t want us to make it to our goal of love and joy with God in heaven.

Thankfully, we also have power. We can hold on to the rod – amidst obstacles and against resistance. We have access to Christ’s power. We also have been empowered ourselves. We have our own will; our own agency – we can keep holding on. We can keep moving forward.

We can follow the Savior’s example and persevere through both obstacles and resistance. We can accomplish the work we have been sent here to do, and then we can feel the joy that God offers us when we do it.

The Vision of the Tree of Life and Success (1 Nephi 8)

The vision of the Tree of Life is a great allegory that can help us to learn to overcome adversity and obstacles. It can be found in 1 Nephi 8.

Here are a few points that Lehi’s landmark Vision teaches us about successfully overcoming obstacles and adversity – about enduring and making it.

One – Listen

“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.

And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” – 1 Nephi 8:15-16

Listen! Be humble! Listen to those who know, who have experienced what we want. We live in 2016. We have an advantage. We have 10,000 years of recorded history to inform us. We don’t really need to experiment. We can listen to those who have gone before. We can learn from their mistakes and their triumphs. They know what it takes to overcome and achieve.

Two – Hold to the Rod

“And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

The Rod of Iron, or the Word of God will lead to the tree. The Lord has given us His word and His wisdom. This will empower us only if we choose to let it empower us! If not, then it is simply a rod – an inanimate object. Our faith is what gives His word power in our lives.

“For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:19

We must choose to hold fast to the iron rod – and press forward. It will give us stability and strength. But if we don’t press forward, if we don’t hold fast, then it’s just an iron rod. Catch a hold of it and do something.

Three – If we Get Distracted, then We Will Fail
The path is strait and narrow. Take a moment to remind yourself of the definition of “strait.” (Hint: NOT straight). In other words, this path is “narrow and narrow.”

As mentioned in the previous point, we have the Iron Rod – and that will anchor us, if we choose to grasp a hold of it. But we can’t be tempted into letting go – because the path is narrow. Any kind of distraction may lead to perilous results.

Often, I have thought about the idea of living “on the edge.” There are many people who want to be as far from that edge as possible. However, it is probably wise to note that being a safe distance from “the edge” isn’t possible. Especially if the way is strait and narrow. We don’t have time for distractions – no matter how innocent they seem.

I know this so incredibly personally. I’m constantly distracted, then I wonder why on earth I’m so far from my original position (let alone destination).

Four – We WILL Face Difficult Adversity, Blindingly Difficult

“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.

And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

So – notice, these mists of darkness aren’t in some far corner. They are directly on the path! They appear in our lives, after we have commenced. After we have begun trying.

We start on the way with a vision of our desired goal – the Tree of Life (and its fruit). But then, we get into the “trenches,” and at times a mist of darkness surrounds us.

To those who steadfastly hold to the rod, their vision helps them through this mist of darkness. Now, I don’t mean their immediate vision – it is dark! The vision, and the hope that they had from the outset. I suppose that this is what is meant by “visionary.” We don’t get bogged down by temporary difficulties.

For those who lack vision, they wander off and are lost. Even though they know that the rod leads to the tree of life! Crazy! Don’t get distracted! And don’t choose to be blinded by the temporary mists of darkness and adversities that are simply part of the path.

We can’t become so overcome by our obstacles that we flee them. We know where we want to be. Those who let go of the rod are only being guided by their emotions (fear), rather than keeping their senses and remembering that the only way is through.

Remember the wisdom of the poet:

“He says that the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or in so far
As I can see no way out but through.” – Robert Frost

Five – Fear Motivated “Success” will usually end up in a very late-term (and tragic) Failure
So, there is a group of people who make it to the tree of life. We read about them:

” And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:24-25, 28

This is so interesting to me. Because, it seems like they succeed! They make it to the tree of life! They partake of this sweet fruit! They held on to the rod. They weren’t blinded by mists of darkness. They weren’t distracted while treading the strait and narrow.

However, the way I interpret this success is that they were driven and motivated by fear. What will people think if I don’t partake of the fruit? What will people think if I don’t go on a mission? What will my family and friends think if I don’t get married in the temple? What will people think of me if I fail?

According to this interpretation, then their success is also shrouded in their pride/their ego. If we let our success be wrapped up with our ego, then we will eventually self-destruct. This is especially tragic because it often happens after we have reached that pinnacle of supposed success.

These people sabotaged themselves by listening to the voices of that silly building. Then those people who had tasted the sweet fruit doubted their own work and accomplishments. Their ego led to thoughts of penetrating shame – causing them to leave the tree (which they had fought for)!

Fear isn’t really a great motivator. It might get us where we want to be, but it is still there once we arrive. Then, it will banish us from our success faster than the climb we took to get there. Get rid of fear. Get rid of ego. Get rid of pride! Let our vision be our motivation!!!

Six – The Pride of the World is Idiotic. Don’t Listen to It!!!
This is closely related to point five, but I think it deserves its own point.

“And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:26-27

The people in the great and spacious building have not partaken of the fruit of the tree of life.

So they are laughing and mocking those who have partaken of it, but they DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT TASTES LIKE!!!!!! This is actually kind of insane, right? They have no idea what they are talking about, so why does their opinion even matter?

I think that this happens to us in so many ways. My husband and I started a business recently. It can be really easy to listen to people say things that might dissuade us from our path, but, more often than not, they haven’t gone down the path, so how on earth am I supposed to listen to them!?

If we have our vision – (the tree of life) and we know where we want to go, it makes absolutely NO logical sense to give the mocking, know-it-all, voices of those in the Great and Spacious building – even a fraction of a second of our attention. They simply have no idea what they are talking about. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time on this topic because it is so silly. Yet we always seem to get so caught up in it.

The Key – Press on and Hold Fast

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

It’s not fancy or sexy or whatever. The solution is really simple. Just keep pressing forward. Hold Fast. We know that the path and the iron rod will lead us to our goal. We must simply hold fast to truth and the wisdom that will support us on our journey to our desired destination. There are no shortcuts. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s not easy, but its entirely possible.

Small Victories Fuel Our Ability to Overcome Big Obstacles (1 Nephi 5:20)

So, Lehi and his family have left Jerusalem and are traveling to a promised land. They don’t know where this will be (we have the advantage of hindsight. The promised land is located in the Americas). They don’t know how long it will take to get there. (Again, we have the advantage of hindsight – it will take them 8 long years).

I’ve thought about this journey throughout my life and during my own proverbial journeys. It is a temptation to want to know what we will face in life. It’s a temptation to think I just wish I knew what was in store for me.

But it’s wisdom in God that we don’t know. Can you imagine if Nephi knew all of the obstacles he’d face? Can you imagine if God did tell him?

Imagine for a moment:
Look Nephi, here’s what’s going to happen. On the way to the promsied land, you’ll be tested. And I mean tested. First you’ll travel for a little while. Then I’ll command your dad to have you and your brothers go back and get the records of your fathers. (The Brass Plates – essentially, the Old Testament).

Getting the brass plates won’t be easy. You’ll lose all of your riches, your lives will be endangered, your brothers will beat you with a rod, you’ll have to kill a man, and then you’ll escape Jerusalem by the skin of your teeth.

When you get back to your dad, you’ll hang out for a bit, then go back to Jerusalem to get Ishmael’s family. It will be another hard journey in the wilderness, and on your way out of Jerusalem and back to your dad, your brothers will tie you up and try to kill you.

You will run out of food and break your bow. You will be married in the wilderness. You guys can’t build a fire – to maintain safety – so you’ll live on raw meat. You will wander through the middle eastern desert (do you know how hot it gets in Saudi Arabia?!) for eight years.

When you finally get to a small paradise that you will name “Bountiful,” I’ll command you to keep going. You’re not done. You will build a boat. You will make tools to build that boat. You will board it. Your brothers will tie you up again (they have this thing…), and you will all nearly die in the middle of a terrible tempest.

Then, you’ll finally make it to the promised land.

Imagine if Nephi knew all of that before he set a foot outside of his door? All of this adversity and obstacles for one main goal: the promised land? I think that if Nephi knew it all, he probably would have just…melted.

But Nephi didn’t. He faced obstacles like we all do – one at a time. And with each obstacle, he met the challenge with faith and overcame. After obtaining the Brass Plates, Nephi was able to say with confidence:

“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

Now, the “big picture” obstacle is getting to the promised land. And here we are, only at the very beginning of the journey. Nephi has already gone through a couple of “sub-obstacles” in this bigger obstacle of getting to the promised land.

At this point, Nephi and his father, had met every adveristy with faith. They prevailed. And with this success came confidence. This confidence would give them the courage and power they would need for the next, bigger obstacle they would face on this arduous journey.

We can learn from this. We need to celebrate the smaller milestones. We need to take time to say, “I’ve kept all of the commandments of God.” This will help us to develop confidence – both in ourselves and in God – which is exactly what we’ll need for the next obstacle.

And this is a pattern that will be repeated until we are all “safely dead.”

Facing Adversity: Lehi, Laman/Lemuel, and Nephi (1 Nephi 2:7,12,16)

I’m reading the Book of Mormon again. This time, as I read, I’ll be studying it with an emphasis on overcoming obstacles. (I recently read The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday, and Im pretty fascinated by what I learned there.

As I read The Obstacle is the Way, I saw many gospel parallels, and thought I should read the Book of Mormon with this framework. So – here we go. Starting straightaway – with Lehi, Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel.

Lehi: Gratitude

” And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.

And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.” – 1 Nephi 2:6-7

Some background. Lehi, the patriarch of his family, had been a prophet (contemporary with Jeremiah) in Israel. He prophesied of Jerusalem’s destruction – unless they would repent. The people didn’t particularly care for this message. They wanted to kill Lehi.

It wasn’t Lehi’s lot in life to stay in Jerusalem as Jeremiah did. Instead, he was directed, by God, to flee Jerusalem, and that God would guide him to a promised land.

Three days into his journey he has not arrived into the promised land. He really has no idea what he is about to face. He is in the wilderness and has left everything behind. (Oh – and Lehi was rich, so he left a lot behind). Jerusalem has not been destroyed. It would be easy to complain, to think I must be crazy. To second guess yourself and God.

Instead Lehi is grateful. He prays to God. I think that this is a key to successfully navigating difficulty and adversity in life. Instead of choosing the easy option (which is impatience and complaining), when we take the time to be grateful, we open our hearts to opportunity, and above all we broaden our perspective. A broad perspective is key to navigating obstacles and adversities well.

Laman and Lemuel: Lack of Perspective

“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

Laman and Lemuel instantly react with complaint and murmuring. They don’t want to leave the comforts of their home – even though a promised land awaits them. They think that their dad is crazy. They want to go back to a comfortable life.

Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a comfortable life! Their lives were in danger – if not from the Jews in Jerusalem who wanted to kill Laban – then, by the coming Babylonians who would destroy Jerusalem later. They were destined, as we all are, for some kind of adversity or another. The journey to the promised land, though arduous, could be argued as “easier” than an alternative.

Yet, Laman and Lemuel react – they complain and murmur. And Nephi explains why – because they did not know the dealings of that God who had created them. They didn’t understand the purpose or role of adversity in life. They didn’t have any perspective. They were selfish and prideful.

Nephi: Not Perfect, but Humble

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

I love this example of Nephi here. We often think of Nephi as the culmination of what he is. We think of all that he did – from the outset. Many people who grow up as Mormons know about Nephi and sing songs about him. He is courageous. He is strong (large in stature!). He helps his family cross a sea. He is nearly mythical.

But if we take a second to really read, we see that Nephi is ordinary. He trusts his old man. But going out into the wilderness is still a real challenge – and who knows how long they will be in the wilderness. Nephi trusts his dad, but also wants to know for himself.

This desire is the first part of humility. Having a desire to obtain knowledge is an important admission: you don’t know it all. This kind of humility is the only way to actually gain knowledge. We won’t seek for that we aren’t even aware that we lack.

So – Nephi is humble enough to ask the Lord. And when he does, the Lord proceeds to soften his heart. I don’t know how the Lord did this, but the result is even more trust in the revelation that his father had.

And this process is the foundation on which Nephi will build – it will give him strength to carry on through the deserts of the middle east, through the threat of death by Laban, through starvation, through the task of building a boat, through sailing across the world, through building up a new society.

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We learn a bit by these examples. Be grateful, Be humble, Get a perspective. When we do these things, we will be given a better capacity to overcome any obstacle that the Lord sees fit for us to face in our lives.

The Righteous Path is a Joyful One

“Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners.

And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.

But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.” – Alma 55:29-32

Still in the thick of the war chapters, I have come to a kind of conclusion.

We see the Lamanites and their anxious reactions to the stresses of war.

Now, I know that I’ve never experienced a physical war. I can appreciate the fact that I can’t appreciate the stress of war. Still, we can learn a powerful lesson by comparing the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites.

How we react to stress can tell us a lot about ourselves and our spiritual standing with God.

The wicked react to stress with fear. This is usually a rather irrational and overly-emotional response. Most often it includes poor choices that might actually worsen their situation.

The righteous, blessed with the Spirit, are comforted during stressful times. They are able to detach from their emotions, and then make smart and educated decisions. The righteous, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are blessed with a hopeful response to stress. They will understand that stress and afflictions aren’t causes to mourn, but are opportunities to experience the Atonement, and that their afflictions will be consecrated for their gain.

This hope results in joy – even in the midst of trial. I believe that this hope and joy enables the righteous to then make the critical decisions that will lead to their success.

The righteous path my not be the easy one, but it is the joyful one.