Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lord Tested Nephi 1 Nephi 3-4

"When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him." Lectures on Faith
There are many reasons why Nephi was justified in killing Laban. The first and foremost reason is that the Lord commanded it. Some have correlated it with the direction given in Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which addresses the Lord’s laws governing the persecutions and afflictions imposed on his people. According to these directions the death of Laban would have been justified. I have written earlier about some of my thoughts regarding the law of judgment, which I believe is another reason that Nephi was justified in slaying Laban. I believe that we are shown how Laban pronounced the judgment on a thief and a robber as death, and when he robbed Lehi’s sons of their property, and became a thief himself, had already decided his own fate. Just recently however, I have seen this experience as a way for Nephi to be proven. This test was given to him by the Lord.

It is important to remember that Nephi followed the correct steps to gain a testimony for himself. (1 Nephi 2:16) Once he “knew” for himself, he then testified to his father Lehi of the truths he knew. (1 Nephi 3:7).
Look for what Lehi “knew” because of this testimony given by Nephi:
1 Nephi 3:8 And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.
Remember the word “blessed” is a key word for entering into the Abrahamic Covenant. (1 Nephi 2:19-24) Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed simply by Nephi’s testimony because it was something that he had experienced himself. It is apparent that Lehi had also been “blessed” of the Lord.
The account in Chapter 3 records that the brothers made three attempts to get the records from Laban. It is interesting to note that after the first failed attempt Laman and Lemuel were ready to go back home. We can attribute this fact to their level of commitment, or in other words, what motivated them to obey in the first place, which was fear. When the fear of Laban became greater than their fear of their father, or the Lord, their first response was to flee and give up the task. This is a lesson in itself for us. Nephi, who received a greater testimony of the principle of obedience, followed a different path.
The record shows a progression of commitment that Nephi exhibits in the following verse:
1 Nephi 3:15 But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
It is interesting to note that the terminology “As the Lord liveth” is the wording used when swearing by an oath. The same wording is used later when Nephi swears his oath to Zoram. (1 Nephi 4:32). Not only has Nephi a great testimony of obedience to the Lord, he now has taken a greater step and entered into a covenant to obey the Lord. We progress in the same manner. We learn of a truth, and covenant to keep that truth. It is because of Nephi’s willingness to enter into a binding covenant, or oath, that the Lord provides a way for him to prove that he is willing to “put his money where his mouth is”, so to speak.
After the second failed attempt, Nephi was “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehard the things which he should do.” It is at this point that Laban is delivered into Nephi’s hand and Nephi is given a test.
Look for how he feels about this test:
1 Nephi 4:10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
I bet Abraham had some of the same feelings as he prepared to take his son Isaac as an offering to the Lord. What do you think?
In the following verses Nephi has a reasoning session with the Spirit about the task he is required to do. Notice what he remembers that finally motivates him to obey:
1 Nephi 4:11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.
18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
Nephi remembers his experience with the “Lord in the wilderness” wherein he gained a testimony, and was “blessed” of the Lord because of his efforts. You know, the experience he had back in 1 Nephi, chapter 2. Nephi was taught by the spirit, entered into a covenant, which allowed him to prove himself to the Lord, and was now ready, because of his faithfulness, to receive further instruction from the Lord. He is ready to part the veil and receive further light and knowledge. This completely fits the pattern set by Alma, which we learned of in this post, in learning the “mysteries of Heaven”.
This test also allowed Nephi to receive power from the Lord. In fact, I believe that this Abrahamic test allowed Nephi to experience the gift of the sealing power. From this point on in his record, Nephi speaks as if the Lord were speaking himself. His word has become the word of the Lord, in other words, the power is in his word.
In just the first few chapters of the record of Nephi we are shown deep gospel truths that are necessary for us to know so that we too can experience these same blessings as Nephi. I absolutely love the Book of Mormon. More great things to come.......

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Plates of Brass 1 Nephi 3

Right after Nephi had been “blessed” by the Lord because “he had sought Him diligently, with lowliness of heart”, the Lord provided a way to prove him to see if he would truly “keep His commandments”.
What is the assignment given from the Lord?
1 Nephi 3:1 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
5 And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
Lehi had received the command from the Lord to send his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the “plates of brass”. Because our knowledge of the records of Lehi are limited, it might be difficult to observe exactly what Lehi’s Abrahamic test was. I believe that in keeping with the story of Abraham, wherein Abraham was required to sacrifice his son by the Lord, Lehi similarly is required to sacrifice his sons by sending them back to Jerusalem. Quite possibly, this could be the test that proves Lehi and Nephi at the same time, similar to Abraham and Isaac. I will address this more in my next post.

For now, I would like to concentrate on why the Lord instructed Lehi to get the plates.
Nephi explains to his brothers the importance of the plates in the following:
1 Nephi 3:19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;
20 And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.
Nephi points out that the plates were needed to:
1) preserve their language
2) preserve the words of the prophets, in other words, instructions on the “covenant”
Later in the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin also expounds on the need for the plates:
Mosiah 1:3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.
5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
King Benjamin taught that the information in the Brass Plates was necessary to know the “mysteries of God”, which we have previously discovered, by seeking makes it possible to be visited by the Lord. He also stressed that the written word was necessary to preserve the commandments. We have also discovered that keeping the commandments allows one to receive the blessings attached to them. Without the knowledge of what the commandments are, it would literally be impossible to keep them, limiting the Lord’s ability to bless us. Finally, the written word would keep the “traditions of men” from becoming the law and a stumbling block to us.
What did these important records contain?
1 Nephi 5:11 And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
12 And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
13 And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
It appears that the “Brass Plates” were similar to the records we have in the beginning of the Old Testament. They contained the history of the Covenant People up until the time of Lehi’s departure. We are told later, as Nephi is given a vision of the future (1 Nephi 13:23), that the record that Lehi was commanded to get had even more information in it than the Old Testament we have today, perhaps pre-removal of plain and precious truths. It was their “Book of Scripture” similar to our standard works of today.
Jumping ahead in the story line, we soon find out that the first thing Lehi did after receiving the plates from his sons was to search them.
Are we searching them still? If we are not searching them, is it really any different than not having them? Lehi was willing to sacrifice the lives of his sons in order for us to have the information contained in these records, are we grateful for them? How do we show our gratitude for them?
King Benjamin was truly grateful for the sacrifice made to have the records in his day. He bore a solemn testimony of their worth and implored his posterity to not regard them as a “thing of naught.” He understood that the records allowed his posterity to “keep the commandments” and call upon the “promises” made to his fathers. (Remember that is the promise we have just discussed in 1 Nephi Chapter 2)
Mosiah 1:6 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.
7 And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.
Are we searching diligently? Are we profiting from the information contained in the records from the Lord? Do we know and understand the commandments contained in these records so that we can be obedient to them? Are we calling upon the promises given to us because of our obedience?
I, like King Benjamin, know these records contain truth and am grateful to have them before my eyes.
What say you?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nephi's Land of Promise 1 Nephi 2

Like I previously stated, I believe that 1 Nephi, Chapter 2 establishes the groundwork for the entire rest of the Book of Mormon.
We have seen how Nephi recorded the pattern for gaining a sure testimony from the Lord, through his Holy Spirit, by his righteous desire and humble request. We have also been shown the progression of prophet, priest, and king, needed to arrive at a “blessed” position from the Lord. We have been given the definition of “blessed” as that of the Abrahamic Covenant, or the PPL, eternal priesthood, eternal posterity and a land inheritance. And finally, we are shown specifically that Nephi’s posterity are the ones who are given this land of promise because of Nephi’s righteous actions. (We will explore this further in the next few chapters.)
Let me explain that last statement. Through the blessing that Nephi received from the Lord, he is led to a land of promise that was prepared for him above all other lands, for his posterity for eternity. This land IS Nephi’s land inheritance.

Notice that at this point the blessing is conditional upon one thing; look for what that condition is:
1 Nephi 2:20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
Just like Abraham, the blessing Nephi will receive is conditional based on his righteous obedience to the Lord. He is required to “keep his commandments” and for that he will be blessed with all that the Lord promised. As long as Nephi proves himself to the Lord showing that he is trustworthy so that the Lord may have confidence in him, he will retain these blessings forever.
That message is clearly taught from the Lord:
Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
Nephi must be “proven” to make his blessing sure, which I believe he does. We will explore that process too. However, part of that sure blessing is this land inheritance.
Notice how the Lord will use the rebellious as a tool. Who are the rebellious? What is the tool for? What are the seed of Nephi to remember?
1 Nephi 2:23 For behold, in that day that they (meaning his brothers seed) shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they (meaning his brothers seed) shall have no power over thy seed except they (meaning Nephi’s seed) shall rebel against me also.
24 And if it so be that they (meaning Nephi’ seed) rebel against me, they (meaning his brothers seed) shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
The unrighteous will be a tool in the Lord’s hand to stir the righteous up to remember the covenant He made with Nephi. That covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant that we just read about when the Lord referred to Nephi as being “Blessed”. That is what the righteous are to remember. (Side Note: Anytime we see the wording “blessed” we should return to Chapter 2 to be reminded of just what that means.)
This was the same manner in which the Lord used the different groups of people, to “stir up” the memory of the House of Israel in Jerusalem, when He used the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians as a tool to try and help them remember the Lord. These groups were not righteous, they were simply used as a tool to help the Lord’s chosen people humble themselves, return to the Lord again, and benefit from the blessings of the covenant.
Simply stated, the Lord uses the unrighteous to remind His covenant people to be righteous and claim their blessings.
We are taught a very important message in Chapter 2... and that message is that this land belongs to the remnant of Nephi’s seed, in other words Lehi’s righteous posterity.
Can you think of what Nephi’s Abrahamic test, to make this blessing sure, might have been?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nephi, Prophet, Priest, and King 1 Nephi 2

In some of my previous posts I have discussed the ascension pattern that can be seen when one progresses in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that the steps, or rungs on the ladder, include a noticeable progression of passing from prophet, to priest, and ultimately to king.
To summarize, I believe that a simple way to think of this progression is: a prophet is one who has been given the testimony of Jesus Christ and can testify of Him, a priest is one who administers to others on behalf of Jesus Christ (such as the priests in the tabernacle and temple), and a king is when one has reached a level to be given all that the Father hath. With each level of progression there are more covenants made and, consequently, blessings given. In the language of priesthood ascension it can be termed, Aaronic, Melchizedek, and finally, Patriarchal.
That said, I believe that these certain patterns can be seen in the accounts we have of the lives of the prophets in not only Old and New Testament times, but Book of Mormon times too. Lehi and Nephi are the first we encounter in the Book of Mormon which teach us of the significance of this pattern. I believe that we would see Lehi’s experience more clearly if we had the record he created available to us, unfortunately we don’t have that information but thankfully we can see the progression clearly taught in Nephi’s record too.
Previously we discussed the process Nephi experienced to gain a testimony like his fathers as explained to us in 1 Nephi 2:16.
It is interesting to see what Nephi does as soon as he receives his testimony because of the “visit” with the Lord:
1 Nephi 2:17 And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
I believe that this is an example of Nephi exhibiting the prophet stage of his progression, as he testifies of Jesus Christ.
Look what he does next:
1 Nephi 2:18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.
In his statement that he “cried unto the Lord for them” he raises to the priest level wherein he “administers on behalf of others”.
At this point the Lord pours out a blessing upon Nephi because of his diligence, and humility. Notice the terminology the Lord uses:
1 Nephi 2:19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
I believe that the blessing the Lord gives to Nephi is the same blessing he gave to Abraham. That blessing or covenant involves eternal posterity, eternal priesthood, and a land inheritance. I call that the PPL.
Look closely for that blessing in the following wording:
“ye shall prosper”- one with a large posterity was considered prosperous
“a land which I have prepared for you”- a land inheritance
“a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren”- this involves the blessing of priesthood
Because the Lord pronounced Nephi as “Blessed” with these blessings he is elevated to the level of king. A true king is simply a ruler and teacher.
From the very beginning of the Book of Mormon we are taught of this progression. This progression is the same one we all must go through to receive the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Now remember the pattern that was given in my last post... where do you think we are, as far as that pattern goes, in Nephi’s progression?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A System by Which Men Learn the Mysteries of Heaven and are Saved- Denver Snuffer

I debated on when I would post this information...I thought it would be a good follow up in understanding the process Nephi shares with us about receiving the Second Comforter and the sealing power from Him, however, I believe it might be better to post it first so that you might know what to look for as we study this process. Consequently, I decided to insert this post in the middle of our study of Nephi so that we can be aware of what is about to come. Make sure you apply this information to the recorded experiences that Nephi gives us.
One of my favorite authors is Denver Snuffer.

Using Alma 12: 28-30 as his reference, he discussed the process of knowing the mysteries of God in his Blog.
Alma 12:28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.
Snuffer states:
There is a system by which men learn the mysteries of heaven and are saved. That system is set out in Alma 12: 29-30:
-First, angels are sent to prepare men/women.
-Second, they are allowed to behold the Lord's glory.
-Then they converse with the Lord, at which point they are taught the things which have been prepared from the foundation of the earth for their salvation.
-All of which is driven by the man/woman's faith, repentance and holy works.
I believe it is important to understand this system as we study the life of Nephi, as he records his experiences with the Lord. His experiences seem to fit this system perfectly.
See if you can see evidence of this “system” as Nephi shares his spiritual progression with us.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Increased Obedience 1 Nephi 2-3

In my last post I talked about how we obey for different reasons. Lehi was motivated to obey out of gratitude and love for his Father in Heaven, whereas Laman and Lemuel were obedient because of fear. It is interesting to observe the process that Nephi followed to become obedient for the right reasons.
Verse 16, in 1 Nephi Chapter 2, explains the process Nephi went through to become more obedient to the Lord:
2:16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.
The process Nephi experienced, simply put, is a desire to know, and the willingness to ask. I believe the Lord gives this same instruction when He admonishes us to “seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” I believe that understanding the simplicity of the process is one of the “plain and precious truths” the Book of Mormon reveals to us. I love how Nephi makes it known that seeking for the mysteries of God are acceptable and, in fact, necessary if we are to be visited by Him. I also love how Nephi describes the way he asks the Lord by using the term “cry”. When I think of crying versus simply asking, it brings to my mind a process of a repentant, humble petition.
Do you think many are blinded because of the “easiness of the way”?
Nephi’s request was answered by the Lord “visiting” him and softening his heart. The result of this experience was a belief in his father’s word and an increased willingness to obey. He gains such a sure knowledge of this principle that he is later able to testify strongly of it.
Because of his experience, look for what Nephi knows.
1 Nephi 3:7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
Nephi knows the Lord will always provide us with the power to obey if we “will” simply “go and do it."
Nephi became converted to the principle of obedience and learned for himself the ways of the Lord. We can follow this same process and learn for ourselves as well.
Be prepared... a test of faith is on the way for Nephi.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Motives For Obedience 1 Nephi 2

I believe that Chapter 2 of 1st Nephi is a pivotal chapter in understanding the rest of the Book of Mormon. For me, it is actually more like the “preface” of everything else that will follow.
The first thing that I noticed about Chapter 2 is that it is a great illustration of the principle of obedience. It primarily shows the different levels of obedience, or motivating factors there are to prompt one to be obedient. Each of the family members shows a different level of obedience.
Why did Lehi obey the Lord?

Look for the reason Lehi left Jerusalem:
1 Nephi 2:1 For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.
2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
3 And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
Perhaps it may seem like he left to preserve his life, but in actuality we are told that he left because he was “obedient unto the word of the Lord.” In this case, the blessing for being obedient was the preservation of his life, literally and figuratively.
Taking only his family and the provisions needed to sustain their lives, (which is another lesson in itself) Lehi left his home behind and ventured out into the “wilderness.” It is interesting to note that after traveling three days, the required time from an authorized sanctuary before one could offer sacrifices, his first acts were to “pitch his tent” and “build an altar of stones.”
(Another interesting side note here might be to notice that the tabernacle was also considered the “tent” of the congregation. I always think of this when I read “and my father dwelt in a tent” from the account of Nephi. In any case, it is evident that Lehi was a very righteous man who knew the importance of sacrificial offerings.)
Lehi was showing his obedience to a command to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but look for the reason we are told he offers them:
1 Nephi 2:7 And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.
When we are grateful our thoughts are turned to the giver of our gifts. I believe that Lehi’s obedience was motivated by his great gratitude and love for his Savior. This level of obedience is the greatest level one can attain.
In my mind, I can picture this event as a “Sacrament Meeting” of sorts, wherein after the Sacramental offering was given, Lehi, the Priesthood leader, gave a talk.
Look for the subject of his talk:
1 Nephi 2:9 And when my father saw that the waters of the river emptied into the fountain of the Red Sea, he spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
10 And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
His focus on obedience, admonishing them to not only be “steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandment” but also “continually running into the fountain of all righteousness” required commitment on the part of the hearers. It taught them through their visual surroundings the example of the principle of obedience. (I love how the Savior used His surroundings to teach his followers too!)
After this great sermon, we are shown two other examples of levels of obedience by the course of Laman and Lemuel, and that of Nephi.
With further reading we learn some interesting things about the character of Laman and Lemuel:
1 Nephi 2:11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
12 And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.
13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.
Although these two are described as being stiffnecked, murmuring, valuing temporal things, unbelieving, not believing the prophets, prideful like the Jews who were at Jerusalem, and knowing not the dealings of God, nevertheless, we are also told that they were obedient.
Look for the REASON that they obeyed:
1 Nephi 2:14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.
Contrary to the obedience that Lehi showed out of love, these two obeyed out of fear. I love the word that Nephi uses when he describes that they did “shake” before their father, it allows me to totally see their fear and confusion.
Elder Oaks illustrated the concept of motivation levels which lead to action in a talk he gave called, “Why Do We Serve.” Although he uses service as the principle, I believe we can substitute the word obey in the same spot.
He stated, "People serve one another (are obedient) for different reasons, and some reasons are better than others. Perhaps none of us serves (is obedient) in every capacity all the time for only a single reason. Since we are imperfect beings, most of us probably serve (show obedience) for a combination of reasons, and the combinations may be different from time to time as we grow spiritually. But we should all strive to serve (be obedient) for the reasons that are highest and best.”
Nephi had a desire to be obedient like his father.
My next post will discuss the process that Nephi followed because he chose to become like his father.
What motivates us to obey certain commandments? By recognizing what is motivating us, can we then, if necessary, elevate our level of obedience to the Lord? By learning to love the Lord more fully, can we become more obedient to His commands?
Since obedience and sacrifice were the first laws given to Adam and Eve, isn’t it interesting they are some of the first principles taught in the Book of Mormon as well?
So much to think about... and it is just chapter 2!