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!

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