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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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.

Physical Trials are Really Hard -1 Nephi 16:20

You can read 1 Nephi 16:20

Context and General Information

  • Lehi and his family are enduring a physical trial – after days or weeks of journeying, they have no food.
  • Nearly everyone, including Lehi, begins to murmur.

Physical Trials

I know I talked about a lot of this yesterday, but I guess it is still on my mind today…oh well.

Earlier in 1 Nephi 16, we read how Nephi broke his bow. This was a huge challenge to his entire family. Of course the usual people (Laman and Lemuel) murmured. Their murmuring extended to the sons of Ishmael. And, unlike other times, this murmuring even spread to Lehi. We read:

“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 16:20

We are so lucky these days. I can’t say that I’ve ever really been that hungry. I typically eat every single day. And I have almost always had plenty of food in my house. I don’t need a bow and arrow to get food. I just go to the store.

This physical trial was difficult.

Though I haven’t been that hungry before, I’ve experienced other difficult physical trials. I’ve had kidney stones. PAINFUL!!!! I mean, excruciatingly painful. Thankfully, I passed the stones and was able to feel good again after that. But in the moment of my kidney stones, it was hard to really think about anything other than the immediate pain in my back. When my husband drove me to the hospital, I was somewhat irritated by his desire to obey traffic laws like stop signs and red lights. I was in pain.

I’ve also had shingles. This was another physical ordeal. It started as a twinge in my back – that lasted about a week. It would keep me awake at night, but kind of felt like I had just tweaked my back during a workout. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Every day, though, it got a little worse.

The pain started on a Sunday night. It continued through to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. On that Saturday night I got very little sleep. Sunday morning I told my husband that my back hurt too much. I wasn’t going to go to church. I couldn’t imagine sitting in chairs for three hours. It would kill my back. (I still had no idea that I had Shingles at that point.) So I stayed home. I read my scriptures. Then I put on my headphones and went out for a short walk – hoping that walking would loosen up my back.

Instead, I was focusing too much on the pain still. I tripped over nothing, and then I sprained my ankle. It was a pretty good sprain, about a half a mile from my house. Someone happened to be driving by as I fell. She offered to take me home, but I had a bit too much pride to accept. She went on her way.

It took a moment for me to gather my courage. I was feeling so defeated. I stood up, putting all of my weight on my good, right foot. And I dreaded the walk home – slightly up hill – about half a mile. I hobbled for a few minutes, and then noticed a car pulling up. It was the same woman. She told me that she couldn’t get me out of her mind, and turned around. This time I accepted her ride very graciously – knowing that it was a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father.

I thanked her profusely and then went back into the empty house. I should mention right now that we were living at my dad’s house. Yes – with my entire family (four kids and husband) – in my late thirties…living with my dad.

I should also mention that I have this problem with dishydrotic eczema from time to time. It’s caused by stress and then certain food sensitivities. The food sensitivities are also brought on by stress. It’s confusing because there are times when I can eat whatever I want with no real problem. Then there are other times when I eat the same foods, and my hands are covered in itchy blisters. This was one of the times when my hands were covered with itchy blisters.

So – I had blistering hands and a fat, throbbing, newly-sprained ankle. I laughed when I got home, thinking – well – maybe now that my ankle hurts so much, my back will stop hurting.

I sat down on the couch putting up my foot, and was dismayed to noticed that not only did my foot hurt, but my back was still hurting, too…a lot. So, I decided to carefully get up and go to take a bath. Maybe that would make me feel better.

I got to the bathroom, and started to disrobe, and then I noticed a huge rash – spanning the upper part of the left side of my chest. This rash was all over my breast, extending out – to underneath my armpit, and even to my back. It didn’t itch at that point (not compared to my hands anyway), but where did it come from!?!?!?! This rash didn’t look like hives, but when I saw it, I’d had it.

I put my shirt back on and went down to the couch and cried. I felt like I was at a breaking point. Now, it wasn’t life-or-death, so I know that it is no comparison to what Lehi and his family were feeling. But I absolutely felt the temptation to complain to God. In my mind, I wanted to complain – I wanted to think I’m doing everything that I’ve been commanded. It’s humiliating, but I’m okay with it. I’ve given up so many of my material goods, but I’m okay with it. I’m living at my dad’s house, and that’s okay. My hands are cracking, bleeding, and rashy, but I can live with it. My back hurts, and I can deal with it. My sprained ankle – I hate getting sprained ankles, but I can rest. … But isn’t that enough. Now I have a giant rash on my body, too? I don’t know if I can take much more.

I prayed that somehow the rash would magically disappear. I wrote a text to my husband – who was at church with the kids. I told him I was okay – he didn’t need to rush home or anything. And I sat on the couch, crying, reading my scriptures, and praying. I tried as hard as I could not to murmur against God.

***

I don’t think that I’m any better than Lehi or anyone else. I have an advantage – I have the examples of those who went before me.

Like Lehi, I’m on a “journey” of my own, and I’m doing everything that I can to follow the Spirit so I can arrive to my own “promised land.” This journey has been emotionally demanding. And that’s the way it goes. We don’t grow without being pushed out of our comfort zones. We don’t make it to the tops of the mountains without climbing a mountain.

When we first embark on a journey (of any kind – physical, spiritual, emotional), it is hard, but also kind of easy. There is this initial excitement and rush we feel. We are stoked. But then, time passes – and we are still on the journey. It isn’t as exciting as at first. The reality of the difficulty of the journey sets in.

With a really big journey – like Lehi’s – we may get through the doldrums. But there’s more to it than that. A big reward (the promised land) requires a big sacrifice (8 years in the wilderness). It’s just the way it works. You can’t plant a green bean and then expect apples. No, if you want an apple tree, you plant an apple seed and then tend to it for years before it gives you a single piece of fruit.

So – Lehi got through the doldrums. He had kept the commandments. Yet he was still tested. Right to the brink of what he could handle.

And we have these examples. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes (understandable ones!) that Lehi and others made – because we know better. We have Lehi and Nephi as examples. We know the ending of their story – they would make it. They would eat. It wasn’t worth the murmuring because they would be okay.

As I sat on the couch in my dad’s house that Sunday morning – ankle throbbing, hand itching, back aching, and my mind racing with worry about this new rash that had popped up – I wasn’t particularly happy. But I knew that I shouldn’t murmur against God. I needed His blessings. I needed to do what I could to get into a state of mind that would bring about a solution to these physical problems that I was having. So – after I read my scriptures,  I just started reading a book. It wasn’t anything spiritual or special. It would just get me into a better mood.

***

This is longer than I anticipated. That’s how it goes. It is helpful for me, and I hope it will be helpful for you.

My family got home from church, we hung out, it was a nice day. Then, later on the kids went to bed. I was spending time with my husband, and letting him know that I was feeling quite defeated. I wasn’t murmuring against God, but I did admit I don’t know how much I can take. But I also knew that if God thinks I can do it, then I can do it. There are so many people who are suffering so much more than I am.

So – in this situation, I was talking with him about my problems, but I want to emphasize I wasn’t murmuring. There is a difference. And there have been times that I have confused identifying a problem in our lives and murmuring. It is good to identify problems. Pretending problems don’t exist is not an exercise of faith. Instead, we have faith when we accept our problems, identify them, and then either endure them or – if it is appropriate – work to find a solution (usually it’s a bit of both).

So – I was telling my husband about the day, and I told him about my rash on my chest. As I was talking to him about it, I admitted that it seemed different than my usual hives. He patiently listened. When I started describing my rash, I had a thought come to my mind Shingles.

I didn’t know anything about Shingles really – other than they were painful and that they were from the Chicken Pox Virus. But the thought Shingles was a prompting from the Spirit. I had my phone next to me, so I picked it up and googled “Shingles.” I read the symptoms, and knew – I have Shingles.

At first, I wasn’t particularly comforted, even though the prompting was a blessing and a comfort. I still wanted everything to magically disappear. (I hope that I’m not the only person on earth who wants things to magically disappear. But I’m childish sometimes). I didn’t want shingles because that meant that all of this – the pain, the rash, etc. was a real issue and wouldn’t just go away with a good night’s sleep.

I told my husband that I thought I had Shingles, and I started to cry. I didn’t want Shingles. (Funny…I already had it. It’s not something I could choose at this point!) We talked for a little while longer, and I’m so grateful that I’m married to a faithful man. His words comforted me, and then before going to bed, I asked for a blessing.

***

I went to the doctor, and they gave me anti-viral medication. They told me that I should take the medication, and that I would also still be in pain. (They weren’t lying). The pain got exponentially worse before it got better. I took the medication for a week, and it cleared up the rash – which meant the virus was no longer active. But, Shingles often causes a bit of nerve damage, and I had pain in my back and side for about 4 more months.

That little vindictive virus. It sits – dormant -on a nerve for decades before attacking. Oh – and typically you’re immune system has to be compromised for it to proliferate. Meaning, you have to be either elderly or really stressed out. So – this feels like you’re being kicked when you are down!

I was already stressed out. The last thing I needed was some idiotic virus attacking my nerves! But that’s the best opportunity for this virus. It attacks when you are at your edge.

***

I didn’t plan on writing about this, and I’m not really sure why I did. Other than I know that even while we are faithful, we will experience trial. Sometimes those trials are mental. Other times, our trials are physical. Physical trials can also become mental trials – as they are very taxing.

These trials aren’t a statement from God that we lack faith. They aren’t a statement from God that he doesn’t like us. Trials don’t come to us because Heavenly Father is ignoring us. Trial come to us because that’s life.  I saw a quote recently:

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Heavenly Father doesn’t promise us that He will clear our lives – free from trials and difficulties. Instead, He lets us know that He will allow us to experience trial, but we don’t need to fear. He can consecrate those afflictions for our gain.

So – when we find ourselves experiencing hardship, even when we are faithful, even when we are keeping the commandments, we can still put our trust in Him. It’s okay to identify the problem. It’s okay to accept it. It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay for us to plead – just as the Savior did – that our trials are lifted from us. And, like the Savior, we need to be willing to accept Heavenly Father’s will. As we do, we may not have the trial lifted, but we will be strengthened. We will weather the storm, and we may just find that the storm cleared the path for us.

 

Pride and Temptation – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

Temptation

We’ve been studying about the destruction of the Nephites in the past few blog posts. The Savior, after being resurrected, visited and ministered to the people of the Americas. As a result of the visitation from the Savior, the Nephites became one people. They lived in peace. There were no classes, no wars, no wickedness. They were very happy.

This joyful society lasted for about four generations, but then pride crept into the hearts of the people. Soon, they no longer had things in common. Class was reintroduced. Then, it wasn’t long before all manner of evils started to become commonplace again. Sin, wickedness, and pride spread through the people like a wildfire – with devastating effects.

Nephi sees some of this – one thousand years before it will happen. We read:

“And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.” – 1 Nephi 12:19

The self-destruction of the Nephites

  1. They became proud.
  2. This pride set them against God, and they gave into the temptations of the devil.

As I read this verse, I am kind of fixated on that word: Temptations. It has a footnote – to the Topical Guide. I think that I will study a few of the entries here today.

Temptation is a Part of Mortal Life

Even before the foundation of this world, the Lord had a plan – we would come to the earth to be tried and tested.

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” – Abraham 3:25

God created the world and then created Adam and Eve. He set them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve dwelt in His presence, but there was a condition – they could not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then remain in His presence.

The Lord then allowed them to be tempted.

Temptation has been a part of our experience always. It is something we should simply accept. When we understand that temptation is a part of our experience, then we can have power over it.

We know that Adam and Eve were tempted, and they fell. This fall introduced death and sin into the world. But it had a positive effect, too – they were able to have children. The plan of salvation would move forward. We could all come to the earth to be tested and tried.

Pride and Temptation

We read in 1 Nephi 12 that because of the pride of the Nephites, they entered into temptation, and then they were overpowered by their enemies. In the Doctrine and Covenants a similar warning is given to Oliver Cowdery:

“1 Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” – Doctrine and Covenants 23:1

Why does pride lead us into temptation? I mean, really – I want to search that. Why does pride lead us into temptation?  Because, obviously it does. And, honestly, we don’t even need to know why in order to understand the pattern that when we have pride, we are more easily beset by sin and temptation. However, maybe if we understand the mechanics of it – maybe if we deconstruct it – then we will fight and rage against pride – so that we aren’t led into temptation – so that we don’t wander off, get lost, and become miserable.

I suppose that we first need to understand, really, what pride is. And I know that I’ve already studied this before, but it’s fine. I am feeling that I need to study this, so here we go. I love President Ezra Taft Benson’s explanation of pride:

Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. – Ezra Taft Benson

I love this explanation because I think that we often do get stuck on the first paragraph – we think of pride as being some kind of braggart-ly jerk. We think of someone who is conceited and cocky. We might think of an arrogant loud mouth boaster. We may even think of it more subtly – the “rat race” or someone who needs to “keep up with Joneses” by wearing a fancy watch and driving a nice car.

Even in the Book of Mormon, when we read that pride is creeping into the hearts of the people, they are described as wearing fine clothing. And yes – this is a part of pride.

But the jerkiness, the haughtiness, the boastful dude who talks trash to others, the subtle passive aggressive lady who gives back-handed complements, the name dropping, the nice cars, the peer pressure, the politics, the condescension and judgment of others – those are all symptoms. They are correlations, but not the causation of pride.

President Benson teaches more than the little outward symptoms of pride. He gets to the heart of the matter – which happens to be the heart. Pride is enmity toward God. And enmity toward God is anything that causes us to hate Him, have hostility toward Him, or put us in opposition against Him. When we really think of it that way, then we will begin to see that even if driving a supercar isn’t important to us, we may still be suffering from pride.

President Benson also explains:

“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s.” – Ezra Taft Benson

It’s starting to get easy to see why giving into pride will then lead to giving in to other temptations. What chance do we even have to ward off temptation if we already have our wills pitted against God’s?

The first great commandment is to love God. The second is love others. When we allow pride into our hearts – our enmity may be directed toward God, which, of course, is breaking that first commandment. It is also possible to have our enmity directed to others. President Benson taught:

“Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)” – Ezra Taft Benson

Does this sound familiar? I wish it didn’t to me. I have often found myself frustrated by the success and joy of others – rather than also joyful for them. This is a form of pride. Left untamed, it can lead to giving into more serious temptations – I mean, really, what is at the root of coveting? Pride. Adultery? Pride. Murder? Pride.

If you keep your hearts pure and full of charity, then you probably won’t go out and commit a gross sin against others. It just won’t be a temptation anymore. Well, actually maybe it will be a temptation. There are always temptations in life. But when we learn to get a handle on pride, then we also won’t succumb so much to temptation.

One more thing about pride. Not only is pride related to enmity, it is also very intimately related with fear. President Benson said:

” The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”

“Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.) Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God. (John 8:29.) Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?” – Ezra Taft Benson

Sometimes we become at odds against God because we worry more about what others think than what He thinks. When we start worrying about others, we then might be led into temptation – we might say yes when the right thing is to say no, we may think that we need to live outside of our means, we might even be willing to hurt others if that pleases those we fear.

Pride just leads to temptation -plain and simple. If we want to have strength against temptation, then we need to attack it at the root – pride.

Prayer Wards of Pride

Both pride and temptation are thwarted by true prayer. Remember what we learned about pride – it is enmity against God. We have pitted our will against His.

Instead, prayer is an exercise where we align our wills with Gods. In the Bible Dictionary we learn about prayer.

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer

First of all – prayer becomes more natural when we learn the true relationship. Think about pride right now – when we have pride in our hearts, are we remembering that we are children speaking to our loving Father in Heaven. When we understand the being that created us, prayer becomes more instinctive.

“Difficulties” about prayer arise from our own silliness – in forgetting that our Father in Heaven is our Father in Heaven!

Pride – plain and simple. So – when I pray, I need to remember that I am a daughter of God. Which means, He is my Father. Which means that He may have just a little bit more knowledge than I do.

The Bible Dictionary continues:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer

When we try to pit our will against God’s – this is pride. When we try to change the will of God – this is pride! We have forgotten who we are and who He is. We have forgotten that He created this world! We have forgotten that His ways are higher than our ways, and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We have become so puffed up and sure of ourselves that we foolishly believe that our knowledge and will to be better than God’s.

Prayer – real prayer – is a way that we can remember our relationship with God and realign our wills with His. It is a way that we can discover His will. (I don’t want to get into this now, but often I think that His will isn’t some specific point by point plan for our lives. We are co-creators. Yet, there is an ideal, and if we seek to understand His will, then we will be much better off!) Prayer can help to ward off pride.

Prayer Helps us Overcome Temptation

This post is rather long, but I want to finish with a few scriptures about the connection between prayer and temptation

One – Matthew 6:13

The Lord’s prayer is a pattern for us to follow. He specifically asks for help – not to be lead into temptation but delivered from evil.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:13 

I ask for a lot of blessings, and I do plead that the Spirit can be with me, but I’m not sure that I always ask for protection against evil and temptation.

Two – Alma 34:39

Amulek taught:

“Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing.” – Alma 34:39

Not only do we need to pray that we won’t be led into temptation, but we need to pray continually!

I love the phrase, that he may not overpower you. I have to admit, yesterday I was feeling a little overpowered. Overwhelmed. Things go great for a while, and then it’s just hard. And what is the problem – most likely my lack of prayer. I try to pray, really pray, each day. Usually, I’m pretty okay at it. Right now, I’m not living in my own house, I don’t have my own space, so sometimes it is hard for me to find the right time or place to pray in a way that I would really like.

So I get a little casual.

And then, it just adds up and I feel overpowered and overwhelmed. So….PRAY! The Lord will give us the strength or insight that we need so we don’t feel overpowered or overwhelmed. We will be guided on what we need to do to stay the course and be happy.

Three – Matthew 26:41

The Savior spoke the following words to Peter, James, and John after he found them asleep while He suffered in Gethsemane:

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

At first glance, this seems like pretty pointed advice to the three apostles that were accompanying the Savior. Not only that, I kind of understand the plight of Peter, James, and John. Every single night, my husband and I try to watch a little episode of Psych or some other fun TV show. And every single night I fall asleep. Usually, I can’t even make it to the OPENING credits before falling asleep! I can get how it would have been hard for Peter, James, John to stay awake – because my flesh is weak.

And that’s the thing, though. This scripture probably applies to all of us in most situations. My flesh is weak. I need the Lord. I need His help. I am willing, but my flesh is so weak. This isn’t an excuse. It is actually meant as a motivation: PRAY! We can’t do it on our own.

When we pray, we are strengthened by the Lord and His spirit. We calm and clear our minds in thoughtful, humble prayer. We align our wills with His. We can feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost – to know what actions we should and maybe even should not take in life.

Our flesh is weak – and on our own, it is way too susceptible to temptation. But we haven’t been left alone. We have a loving Advocate who pleads our cause for us. However, He can’t plead our cause if we aren’t pleading it, too – in His name. The Lord will make us strong. He wants to make us strong. We just need to humble ourselves and pray.

***

I needed to read this today and to be reminded. I can see why the word “temptation” was standing out to me. I can see why I needed to study temptation, pride, and prayer. I need to remember to really pray and to really believe that Heavenly Father answers our prayers.

I needed to remember that Heavenly Father does allow us to be exposed to challenges and trials in our lives, but that we aren’t alone. We have His help, His constant companionship.

I needed to remember that His help doesn’t mean that He will navigate rough waters for me, but that He will enable me to do it, and that a big part of this is through prayer. Through prayer I will be able to come off conquer and not be overcome by temptation.

I’m so grateful for the scriptures. I know that they will help us every single day if we will just crack them open and listen to what the Lord wants to teach us. I also know that the Lord is guiding us. Every time I learn something in my personal scripture study, I realize that the Lord truly knows me, is mindful of me, and wants to answer my prayers – but He will not rob me of experience and growth when He does answer them. Understanding this helps to strengthen my faith and trust in Him.

I’m so grateful to know we have a loving Father in Heaven. I’m so grateful to know that we have a Savior who is also pleading our cause for us. I am so grateful to know that we don’t have to travel through our lives alone. I’m grateful to know that there is a way out of temptation. We have One we can turn to, and He’s only a prayer away.

The End of the Nephite/Lamanite Civilization and its Connection with Lehi’s Dream – Two: Mists of Darkness – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

Phew…long title.

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The Mists of Darkness

After showing Nephi the destruction of his people (which wouldn’t happen for hundreds of years), the Angel explains a few of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. Of course, it is always interesting and helpful to examine the meanings of each symbol, but I’m curious – why would the Angel tell Nephi these meanings after showing him the destruction of the Nephite civilization? What do they have to do with one another.

We studied the first symbol – the fountain of filthy water here.

Today, we will investigate the second symbol – the mists of darkness.

We read:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

It’s kind of interesting. Right now, where I live, the skies are filled with smoke. Most of this smoke is filling up our valley because the west is on fire. There are fires in California and Utah. Because we are east of California, the jet stream brings all of that smoke into our valley. Here the skies are usually clear. Now, it is getting so smoky, it’s hard to breathe without drying out and coughing a little bit.

016 Smoky Skies

Smoky Skies

I can’t help but think of the smoky air when I read about the mists of darkness. It’s crazy to think about the mists of darkness – obscuring everything from view.

The Nephites literally experienced this after the death of the Savior, and before His visitation to the Americas. First there were fires, earthquakes, and tempests. Then we read:

“And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

So much destruction had come to pass that it took three days, essentially, for the dust to settle. Many people were killed during theses seismic and terrible events. Finally, after three days, the darkness lifted. We read:

“And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—” – 3 Nephi 10:12

Those who made it through the literal mists of darkness did not let go of the iron rod. They received the prophets and the words of the prophets.

***

Now, the Angel is telling Nephi about the mists of darkness while showing him the final destruction of the Nephite people – which happened about 400 years after Christ came to the Americas.

They didn’t experience a literal mist of darkness. However, the proverbial mists of darkness experienced by the Nephites were far worse. This led to their ultimate extinction.

Let’s look at the scripture in Nephi again:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

The Mists of Darkness are the Temptations of the Devil

One thing to understand is that the mists of darkness are temptations of the devil. A mist of darkness is not sin, itself. What I mean by that is – there are times when we must endure a period of darkness – just as the Nephites who lived when the Savior came to the Americas did. We may have to endure periods of “darkness” and temptations in our lives, but we don’t have to give in to them.

Also, just because we endure temptations, doesn’t mean that we are wicked. Remember, the mists of darkness simply appeared while the people traveled towards the tree of life. All of the people who were on the journey were exposed. We read:

“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.

24 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.” – 1 Nephi 8:23-24

How do we endure temptations – we need to catch a hold of the iron rod and press forward confident in God’s Word.

Paul taught:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Though we will all endure temptation during this life (even the Savior did!) experiencing temptation is not a judgment on us. Being tempted doesn’t mean we are evil – it means that we are on the path to the tree of life. The Lord has given us a way through temptations – and that is His gospel. If we will stay true to our faith and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, then we will make it safely through the mists of darkness. These experiences will even make us better and stronger.

However, giving into the temptations of the devil come with deleterious consequences.

Two – The Result of Giving into Temptation

From the Angel we learn that if we give into the temptations of the devil – or mists of darkness – then we will become blind, our hearts will be hard, and we will wander off into strange roads and perish.

The Nephites, at the end of the Nephite civilization did give into the temptations of the devil – even though they knew better! Because of their rebellion, because they deliberately let go of God’s Word and they persecuted the faithful, they were blind, their hearts became hard, and they perished. In fact, this was such a wide-scale problem, that every single Nephite besides Moroni, died. An entire group of people became completely extinct – after having a flourishing civilization that lasted about 1,000 years.

***

So…What’s the Point

So – what’s the point of studying this? What’s the point of knowing this about the Nephites, a group of people who all died off about 1,597 years ago? Why did Nephi need to see this? And why do we need to read it?

Well – it’s an extreme but also effective example.

Maybe it will help if I just think about this for myself…Likewise, you can apply this to yourself.

I need to remember that while I’m on the path toward the tree of life – toward eternal salvation and joy – I will experience times when I must travel through mists of darkness. There will be times when life is hard, I experience trials and tribulations. These trials and tribulations may even result in elevated temptations.

While Satan will tempt me in various ways, ultimately, his goal is the same: to get me to let go of the Iron Rod.

When I was a teenager, and I was in high school, I was tempted to drink, party, use drugs, be immoral. Those very real temptations are no longer temptations any more. I passed through that mist of darkness thanks to the Iron Rod – in the form of seminary, mutual, General Conference, and friends who were also navigating this time in their lives with faith.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced the “mists of darkness” in my first marriage and divorce – where I was tempted to give in to the self-loathing that comes when you are married to a serial adulterer. I’ve been tempted while trying to navigate challenges such as the shift into motherhood, I’ve been tempted to give up on myself and even God when I went through my divorce and the most painful time of my life. However, I passed through that mist of darkness with the help of the scriptures, my bishop, hobbies like running, and movies like Napoleon Dynamite.

In my thirties, and happily married, I experienced new types of “mists of darkness.” These were interesting. They weren’t as obviously evil – as drugs or immorality. They weren’t as painful as betrayal and divorce. These mists of darkness were more like the smoke that fills our valley right now. These temptations were the temptations to be overwhelmed – by things that even seem good! Goals, desires for my life, activities and responsibilities for my children, etc. While none of these things are bad, sometimes I have felt so much pressure to be whatever it is I think that I’m supposed to be that I just want to give up. I don’t want to go out and commit some kind of atrocious sin, but the temptations that I have faced in my thirties still have made me want to do the same thing as the temptations I faced in my teens and twenties – let go of that Iron Rod.

But, I have been blessed – again with the scriptures, with prayer, with a loving and supportive husband, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost that helps me to discern between truth and error – especially when the error I’m facing looks like something good (commitments and great expectations) rather than something so obviously bad (drugs).

I’m now about to turn 40. I know that I have not yet made it to the tree of life. Still, there will be times when I have to travel through mists of darkness. Though these mists and temptations may look different, they all are trying to get us to do the same thing – let go of the Iron Rod. Satan wants us to let go of the only sure and good thing in this world.

Though his temptations may be attractive, there is no substance to them, and they will only lead us to blindness, hardness, and eventually death.

Thankfully, the solution is just as simple – hold on. Keep holding on to the Savior. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to be swift. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We just keep walking toward that tree, while holding on to The Savior and His Word.

Lack of Vision: An Impediment to Overcoming Adversity (1 Nephi 17:17-21)

“And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.

And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord.

And now it came to pass that I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts; and now when they saw that I began to be sorrowful they were glad in their hearts, insomuch that they did rejoice over me, saying: We knew that ye could not construct a ship, for we knew that ye were lacking in judgment; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work.

And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.” – 1 Nephi 17:17-21

Laman and Lemuel lack vision. They have no vision! They are too prideful to see what is possible. What a setback! This is can be a problem for anyone, actually.

In our world, it is a little bit more…acceptable…to be cynical. The world is full of cynics who complain and criticize nearly everything. No vision.

Laman and Lemuel, when Nephi is commanded to make a boat, criticize him. They recount their troubles to Nephi and then compare their troubles in the wilderness with a romanticized fantasy of what their lives would be like in Jerusalem.

Laman and Lemuel claim that they could have been in Jerusalem and enjoying their possessions. It’s kind of a silly thing to say. They wouldn’t have enjoyed their possessions. Their father’s life was already in danger. I’m sure that some of the hatred that the Jews had for Lehi could have easily transferred to a hatred for Laman and Lemuel.

Not only that, but Jerusalem was on the verge of destruction. Its destruction was so severe, they would have been lucky to die. People in Jerusalem lost all they had, starved, and experienced horrors described by Jeremiah in Lamentations.

Yet, Laman and Lemuel persist in their fantasy-mindset. And so they remain angry.

This mindset is persistent still. I’ve seen it in my own life – even with friends. Instead of living in the present moment, we compare our current troubles with a romantic and pernicious lie. This silly mindset will blind us and make us incapable of any achievement or success. And then we will find ourselves, like Laman and Lemuel, without any vision.

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.”