They Wandered Off and Were Lost – 1 Nephi 8:18-23

You can read 1 Nephi 8:19-23.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi saw a rod of iron leading up to the tree of life.
  • Lehi saw a straight and narrow path along the rod of iron. It led through the large and spacious field and the head of the fountain.
  • Lehi saw many concourses of people looking to get to the path that led to the tree of life. They started on the path.
  • A great mist of darkness rose up. It was so thick and dark that many of the people who had commenced on the path lost their way.

Wandered off and Were Lost

They Wandered Off and Were Lost

I’m so fascinated with these groups of people we read about in Lehi’s dream.

The first group of people are searching. We read:

“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.” – 1 Nephi 8:21

There were so many people – numberless concourses. They are searching. They are pushing forward. They want to obtain the path that leads to the tree of life.

There is an interesting footnote in this verse. The footnote has a cross reference to the Doctrine and Covenants:

“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—” – Doctrine and Covenants 123:12

There are so many who want to know the truth, they are searching for the truth. And some of these people are even deceived by subtle men who are preying on these earnest people. These people are only kept from the truth because they don’t know where to find it.

When I read scriptures like this, I am overwhelmed at my great blessing and fortune. I didn’t have to search far to find the gospel. My mother is a member of the church, and she raised me in the Church. I have had access to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the rest of the scriptures for my entire life. I have grown up to know that we have living prophets on this earth today. I have had the opportunity to make covenants with my Heavenly Father.

I didn’t have to search. The truth is right here – available to me so easily. It doesn’t seem fair.

Well, it isn’t fair. I recognize this. And I also recognize that it does me no good to only recognize the unfairness of my blessings – to have the gospel in my life. I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I was just born to a faithful mother who also had the gospel.

It isn’t fair, and I recognize that, but I don’t feel any shame. Instead, I feel great responsibility.

I think that shame is kind of popular right now. People of privilege are being taught to be ashamed of their privilege. I don’t think that this is helpful for anyone.

Should someone be proud of their privilege? No.

Instead, they should live up to it.

In other words, it doesn’t help anyone at all for me to be ashamed of my blessings – to the point where I don’t rise to the occasion and use them for the good of others.

Think of the parable of the talents. One man was given five, one was given two, and one was given one talent. You are probably familiar with the parable. The one with five talents invested and then made five more. The one with two made two more talents with his. Finally, the man with only one talent buried his.

When the Lord came back to these men, for an accounting, he saw that the first two had increased their talents. He commended them for their efforts. The last man had buried his talent. He didn’t use it. He didn’t create. He squandered his opportunity.

When the Lord made an accounting with him, this man’s talent was taken away and given to the first. He had been a poor steward of his resources.

So – think of it another way. Imagine that first man – who had been given five talents. Imagine if he had been embarrassed – because of his privilege.

Imagine if he had been embarrassed because of the blessings he had received – unfairly – while others only had two or even only one talent. He didn’t do anything to earn them. Imagine if this embarrassment had turned to shame.

Imagine if he had said

Five talents is too many. It makes other people feel bad because they don’t have as many talents as I do. I don’t want to look like a show-off. I don’t want to look like some rich, spoiled brat.

So…I’ll bury three of these talents – then cultivate two. Then it won’t seem so ostentatious.

If this is what the first person had done, what do you think that the Lord would have said to him when he came for the accounting? Do you think that the Lord would have said, “Oh…good. You buried three of your talents so that you could appear more modest and fair to the others.”

No way.

The Lord would have been disappointed. How would burying three talents help anyone? By vesting all of his talents and making more, he can do more. He can help to build the kingdom of the Lord. His wealth can help to generate more wealth and opportunity for others.

Yes – it’s unfair and I’m privileged. I’ve had the gospel my whole life. I’ve been blessed to live in the U.S. with access to good education and amazing experiences. In a way, I want to be “modest.” I don’t want people to feel bad because they haven’t been blessed in the same ways I have.

But I recognized that I have done nothing to deserve my blessings and privileges. I also recognize that those who do not have the same blessings and privileges that I have received their lots in the same arbitrary and unfair fashion as I did. I recognize that just as I did nothing to deserve my good fortune, others did nothing to deserve their less favorable fortunes.

I recognize that God did not give me my blessings “willy nilly.” He doesn’t love me more. I recognize that God gave me these blessings so I can use them in a way that will bless others.

Those people – struggling to find the path – who don’t know where to find the truth – aren’t wicked or unloved by God. They have inherited a less than ideal environment for life, and it is up to people like me – who have had so much handed to me – to extend my own hand to them.

***
Back to the dream for a second.

This is a dream, so more happens. (And remember – it is a dream!)

“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 8:23

This first group of people struggled to find the path and then a mist of darkness arose. Unfortunately, those souls who had just struggled so much to find the path were overcome by the mists of darkness. They couldn’t keep their bearings, and they wandered off the path and were lost.

***
This is a sad situation for these unfortunate souls. Luckily it is only a dream. Unfortunately, it is symbolic of real life.

There are people who have struggled to find truth in their lives, and just as they get close to it, they are challenged and then lose their way.

Personal Application

In a way, I think that this story sounds like it “just happens” – that people struggle to find truth and then end up getting consumed by the mists of darkness.

Maybe it does “just happen.”

I don’t know.

One thing I do know – the life, grace, and atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ can overcome the deleterious effects of wandering off the path. The Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Good Shepherd. He will find the one that is lost and bring them back to the fold, if they allow it.

I also know that we, those who have the truth, can be tools in the hands of the Good Shepherd.

What is the personal application for me today? Praise the Lord and express my gratitude that I was one of the “lucky” people – to have the gospel in my life from day one. That I haven’t had to search far for truth and light and love in my life. I can then do more to share my knowledge and testimony with others, so those who are looking for the truth can find it.

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Faith, Joy, Iniquity, and Despair (Moroni 10:22 and 9:25)

I’m going a little bit out of order, but it works…

In Moroni 10, we read:

“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” – Moroni 10:22

This is kind of depressing. I mean, who likes thinking about despair. No one. BUT, we still need to think about it! How else can we protect ourselves against this if we don’t study it and understand how it can come into our lives???

Here, we learn that a lack of hope leads to despair. And despair comes because of iniquity.

I want to be careful as I write this. I know that there are other reasons people feel hopeless. I know that despair can come of depression and other chemical problems in the body. So, I don’t want to seem insensitive. I don’t think that despair only comes through iniquity.

However, iniquity will only ever result in despair. There is no other consequence of iniquity.

Additionally, I have experienced despair in my life. I have seen a therapist during a particularly dark time in my life. I learned to look at my own life with a sort of detachment – to look at the facts of the events in my life, rather than the emotion that was laced with those facts. And I learned how to change what I was doing (that was unhealthy), so that I could pull myself up out of despair and into hope.

I had despair, but mine was not a chemical issue. My doctor would have prescribed medication. Medications, however, are riddled with side-effects, and there is more than one way to “skin a cat.”

Since then, I have learned to apply the same techniques. This is where meditation comes in handy. And when I’m experiencing hopelessness or despair, often the Lord will teach me how I can change. I may not be out robbing banks, doing drugs, or prostituting myself – I’m not iniquitous, but there is a disconnect between me and the Spirit of God. And the connection is the same no matter how great or small the sin.

We learn in the chapter before:

“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” – Moroni 9:25

It is through Christ that we can be lifted up. Sometimes we are best able to access Christ and His atonement through therapeutic practices. When I saw my doctor, she explained that the practices and “homework” she was giving me – processing the experiences I had in my life that caused trauma and bad patterns – would help to liberate me so that the Atonement could have an effect in my life.

In other words – therapy was a blessing of the Atonement. Christ suffered and has given men and women the wisdom to help each other! Going to therapy was a gift of Christ’s suffering. The gifts of the Atonement don’t only come through abstract prayer sessions. (Of course, I believe prayer is important!) Sometimes the answers to these prayers come through other, more practical forms of work.

In any case – the result is the same. When we are able to access the power of the atonement (whether it is during our prayers, with the assistance of a therapist, or with the assistance of medications), once we can access that power, our souls are filled with hope of His glory. We begin to feel the promise of the joy of rest.

Anyway – there is so much more I could write about this. I can’t even begin to pretend that this blog post is the beginning and end of this subject. But I hope that it scratched a surface for you. If you are feeling despair, think of how you might be disconnected from God and Christ. Perhaps your despair is caused by your own sin. Perhaps this despair is caused by the sin of another. Maybe your despair is caused by the malfunction of a mortal body or brain. Any of these scenarios can be healed through the Atonement of Christ. Pray to the Lord in Christ’s name. Listen to the advice he gives you. Maybe you’ll be guided to read a scripture. Maybe you’ll find you need to repent and change. Maybe your’e answer will come as a prompting to get more professional help for scars and wounds that need more than a proverbial band-aid and antibiotic cream.

No matter what, I know that the Lord will help us.

I know this because I know that the Lord wants us to have joy. He promises us joy, peace, and rest. He wants us to experience all of His greatest blessings. Best of all, He doesn’t expect us to be able to have any of these blessings without His help

The Results of Faithlessness (Clue: They aren’t good!) (3 Nephi 2:19)

Yes, I know that we just read about the peace and joy that the people had as a result of covenanting with the Lord and being righteous. But then, they forgot…

“And thus ended the fifteenth year, and thus were the people in a state of many afflictions; and the sword of destruction did hang over them, insomuch that they were about to be smitten down by it, and this because of their iniquity.” – 3 Nephi 2:19

Silly people. Really, we are silly.

Wickedness and abomination increase. They consider faith in Christ to be “foolishness.” And here’s what happens:

  • They experience many afflictions
  • The sword of destruction hung over them
  • They were smitten down.

Yikes!

This sounds horrible! These are the results of wickedness. Wickedness never was happiness. Remember – that’s not just some trite saying. It is a universal law. No matter what we try to convince ourselves, it is as real as the law of gravity.

The Double Edged Sword of Truth (Mosiah 13:8)

In Mosiah Chapters 12-15, Abinadi the prophet is delivering a message to the wicked priests of King Noah.

Abinadi preaches a message of truth. It is, for the most part a message of hope. It is the message that Christ will come. It is the message of the gospel and how God’s commandments bring us joy and peace in this life and in the life to come.

Of course, the gospel of Christ is also a message of our agency. We don’t have to choose to keep the commandments. We don’t have to choose to covenant with Him. We can do whatever we want to do. However, we are warned that when we don’t keep the commandments, then we will experience pain and misery.

Abinadi is teaching the priests truth. This message is “laws of the universe” kind of stuff. That might not make sense. What I mean is – the connection between righteousness and joy is as sure of a universal truth as gravity is. You can’t really disagree with the law of gravity. It’s a law.

I mean, I guess you could disagree with it. But you are still susceptible to it, and must be obedient to it or else experience grave results. The Lord’s laws are just as sure. But not everyone accepts or rejoices in truth.

The Priests, who claimed to be preaching the gospel, didn’t rejoice at Abinadi’s words. They didn’t nod their heads and give an “amen.” Instead, we read:

” Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.

Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.” – Mosiah 13:7-8

I’ll try to cut the priests some slack. Abinadi was calling them out on their wickedness. This is because they were ripening for destruction, and God loves His children. He sent a prophet to warn them – with the hope that they would repent and unite themselves again with a God who loves them and would protect them. It isn’t always easy to hear or take correction – especially if you’re somewhat fond of your sin.

So, I can learn a lesson from these wicked priests, and ask myself, Do I respond in like manner? When someone corrects me, am I filled with “wonder, amazement, and anger?” or do I swallow my pride, accept correction, and seek to repair my relationship with God?