You can read 1 Nephi 16:1-6 here.
Context and General Information
- After Nephi finished speaking to his brothers, they said that what he declared was hard for them – more than they could bear.
- Nephi admitted that he knew that he spoke hard things against the wicked, according to the truth.
- Nephi then exhorted his brothers to choose a righteous path, then they wouldn’t murmur and complain that the words of righteousness are hard for them.
- Nephi’s brothers humbled themselves – so much so that Nephi even started to have great hope for them.
- All these things were done while they dwelt in the valley Lemuel.
Ye Would Not Murmur
There are a lot of good nuggets of truth in this short scripture passage, but the one that keeps standing out to me is Ye Would Not Murmur because of the truth.
It has me thinking of murmuring. So – let’s figure it out for a second.
First, I thought I’d look in the Bible Dictionary…Nothing.
So then I checked the Guide to the Scriptures. There IS an entry for murmur…so let’s see what it says!
“To grumble and complain against God’s purposes, plans, or servants.” – Guide to the Dictionary: Murmur
It’s pretty simple.
I also noticed that murmuring is related to rebellion. Just for kicks, let’s read what The Guide to the Scriptures says about rebellion.
“Defying or opposing the Lord, including refusing to follow His chosen leaders and willfully disobeying His commandments.” – Guide to the Scriptures: Rebellion
Yikes! We don’t want to get into rebellion territory. Which is why it is important to understand murmuring. Murmuring often (but perhaps not always) leads to rebellion. On the other hand, someone who is rebelling against God will also always murmur against Him.
Okay. Let’s keep studying this.
So – a reminder – Murmuring: To grumble and complain against God’s purposes, plans, or servants.
How might we complain or grumble against God’s purposes?
I suppose we should take a moment right now to remind ourselves of what God’s purposes are. I’ve done a little bit of research – in the Bible Dictionary, the Topical Guide, etc. And it led me to the scripture that I was already thinking of…
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39
This is what we know. This is what has been revealed to us. Ultimately, the Lord’s purpose is helping US to have immortality and eternal life. That is a big-time macro level view of God’s purpose. But He also has “micro” purposes that we aren’t always aware of…
For example, as we read in 1 Nephi 9, Nephi was commanded to make two sets of plates. The larger one (which was the one that he was already making) was to contain the history of his people. The smaller one (which was the one that God commanded him to make in addition to the large plates) contained the ministry of Nephi and the things that were of most spiritual value.
It wasn’t all that easy for Nephi to write another set of records. I mean, it’s so easy to overlook this fact! I’ve got like 3 blogs. I don’t know how many journals. I can type around 80 words a minute. Writing more! hahaha! That is not that difficult. It would be harder for me to be commanded to write less!
Nephi didn’t have a laptop, a journal with fun and colorful pens. He didn’t have a typewriter. He wasn’t writing on a scroll of paper with a quill pen and ink. He was engraving his writings on metal! This would have been hard to do.
Not only would it have been hard, but the Lord didn’t exactly tell him why he needed to do it. Nope. The Lord simply commanded Nephi to do this thing. And Nephi explains:
“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” – 1 Nephi 9:5
Even though Nephi didn’t understand God’s purpose, he didn’t murmur against it! It’s remarkable. There are times when we do understand God’s purpose, yet we murmur. Nephi didn’t know God’s purpose, nor did he murmur against it. Instead, Nephi rooted his faith in what he knew about his Heavenly Father: the purpose would be wise.
We have the advantage of hindsight, and we know the Lord’s purposes. The first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon (comprising of the record of Lehi, Nephi, and the others who kept historical records up until King Mosiah) were lost and destroyed. But we aren’t completely void of these early records. Instead, Nephi started writing that second record – of the ministry. He trusted in God’s purposes without grumbling. He obediently began a new record, and taught those who inherited these plates to record the ministry of the people. And because of His obedience, we still have his words.
I think that you could argue, still, that God’s purpose was our immorality and eternal life – that is why we need scriptures! To know how to inherit what God has. So it is probably best to keep this major purpose in mind, and feel confident that the little things – the little commandments – will serve a great purpose.
One last thing on purpose…what if we murmur against that purpose? The immortality and eternal life of man…I suppose it happens sometimes. I suppose that there are people who murmur against this beautiful purpose. Maybe they think it is foolishness – that there is no such thing as immortality or eternal life. Maybe they have such a hard time understanding God that they can’t even begin to grasp that He would be a God with a purpose.
Murmuring against God’s purpose probably doesn’t apply to most people. Most of us want to be happy! Most of us don’t want to be cast off from all light and life and joy. Most of us hear of God’s entire purpose, work, even glory, and we are filled with comfort and joy. I mean, hearing that God wants to bless me with His greatest blessings fills me with comfort and peace! I bet most people feel the same way when they learn God’s purposes.
Why would people think of murmuring against this purpose? I suppose it’s the same thing we’ve read before:
“…And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12
Okay. I need to move on.
So, the next thing that we might grumble or complain about are God’s plans. I think that this is where the purposes of God are put into action. So, we may murmur against His beautiful plan – outright. It’s beautiful and hopeful!
But we forget that the purpose can’t be accomplished without plans and execution. And that is where we sometimes start to murmur.
Let’s think of another scriptural example.
When Nephi and his brothers went to obtain the plates of brass from Laban, they didn’t succeed after the first attempt. They were pretty depressed, even, when Nephi thought of a plan. They returned to Jerusalem, got all of their goods and precious things, and then approached Laban to essentially buy the plates. He refused. Laban chased them out of town and robbed them of all of their possessions in the meantime. Laman and Lemuel didn’t take this failure well. We read:
“And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father; and also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod.” – 1 Nephi 3:28
Laman and Lemuel had already been murmuring about this entire exercise – to get the plates. And yet, somehow they were cajoled into doing it. Then…after two attempts – they still don’t have the plates, have lost all of their precious possessions, they nearly lost their lives, they are being hunted by a powerful man in the city, and they have no more hope. How will they get the plates? Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising that they murmured.
They aren’t the only ones who have experienced this in life – choosing to obey God’s commandments, only to be faced with extreme difficulty and adversity.
It’s easy to forget the God that created us, and murmur against Him. When we murmur against His plans and commandments for our lives, we are also murmuring against His purpose. We forget that these plans and commandments and are given to us so we can succeed – in receiving immortality and eternal life. When we murmur at the onset of afflictions, we forget that God is capable of consecrating our afflictions for our gain. (back to that purpose again).
This one can be the hardest, in my opinion.
It’s one thing to trust in God and even to trust in His plans. God is perfect. His purpose – it’s amazing. His plans, though difficult, have purpose, and He will strengthen us to overcome them.
But his servants…well they’re human.
It’s easy for us to judge them and murmur against them because they aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They don’t have the big picture that God has. They may not have as much intelligence or experience as we do.
Not only that, but we are taught:
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-40
Sad Experience! It’s the nature of almost all men to exercise unrighteous dominion. Yet God lets us, feeble humans, serve Him in so many capacities.
So – we need to sustain and love our leaders, rather than murmur against them. Does this mean that we need to blindly obey our priesthood leaders, point blank? Not really. It probably means that we need to understand their true roles, and then delineate between what they do and do not have dominion over.
But we can still sustain them in their calling, even when they might step on our toes. We can forgive, still make our choices, and still even support them to do what is in their mantel to do.
It is what God has asked us to do.
And, if we trust His purpose, then we’ll trust His plan. If we trust His purpose and plan, then we will not murmur against those whom He has called to execute His plans.
This is really short, and I’m sure that we could write so much more about this. I don’t want to say that all leaders are perfect! They aren’t! I don’t think that we should just blindly say, “we must obey the priesthood!” Because there have been times when I’ve had leaders that exercised unrighteous dominion. There have been times when I’ve needed to raise my voice – not in anger or in contention, but lovingly and persuasively, to show that I truly sustained my leader – we are on the same team with the same purpose.
I know that it isn’t always black and white. I know it gets grey, but I also know that there is a way for us to sustain our leaders, even when they aren’t perfect. If it wasn’t possible, then the Lord would have organized our church differently.
I’ve got to wrap this up. We don’t want to murmur! I don’t want to murmur! It is a sure path to apostasy.
So – what’s the antidote? As usual – humility. Prayer. Trusting in God. When we know the God that created us, we will believe Him. We will adore, praise and worship Him. We won’t even think to murmur because we love Him.
Thanks for reading today…I didn’t have time to proofread. Please don’t judge me!!! And remember, this is a short look at a huge subject. What I’ve written isn’t complete. It’s just a starting point.