Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free to Choose, But Not the Consequences 1 Nephi 7

The next important event that Nephi records is the requirement, made by the Lord, for he and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to the house of Ishmael to persuade him to join them in their journey to a land of promise. This assignment was important for the propagation of the posterity of Lehi because Ishmael provided daughters for his sons to marry. Although Nephi does not record any rebellion by his brothers concerning the charge to get the wives, he does discuss their reluctance to return back to Lehi in the wilderness and their desire instead to stay in Jerusalem, which was ripe for destruction.

It is interesting to watch the interaction of Nephi with his brothers as they seek to rebel against the Lord and disobey his command. Nephi, who has power in the priesthood, and displays power in his very word, uses a pattern of teaching that is typical of how the Savior taught, speaking as if the Lord himself is speaking.
Look for what the brothers desired.
1 Nephi 7:6 And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
7 And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.
Laman and Lemuel wanted to exercise their agency and return to Jerusalem even though it was contrary to the command they had been given. Nephi, their younger brother, was troubled that they needed to constantly be reminded of the word of the Lord by him, as he set the example of obedience.

Side Bar: At this point I would like to interject a possible concern. There have been times when I have wondered how the same incidence, if told in the perspective of Laman and Lemuel, might have differed. Since this record is that of Nephi, I have felt at times that he seems to make sure the record is really slanted in his favor. This perspective changed for me when I realized that Nephi had, I believe, already at this point in his history, progressed to the point that he had received the sealing power. The understanding that I have of this power allows me to now view Nephi quite differently. Suddenly every word that Nephi speaks is as if the Lord himself were speaking. No longer do I view Nephi as boastful, but as a representative of God in every word and deed. This exchange between Nephi and his brothers, or the rebellious, has become a way for me to understand the nature and character of the Lord much better, as it is illustrated by Nephi’s very words and actions.
Nephi provides the type and shadow of the Savior himself as he councils the rebellious.
By the questions Nephi asks his brothers, look for what he is trying to remind them of:
1 Nephi 7:9 How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?
10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
Nephi reminded his brothers of the Lord’s power unto deliverance if they would exercise faith in him. He used incidents that they were familiar with to jog their memory of what great things they had already heard and seen. He bore testimony of the power of faith, and pled with them to be faithful. He taught, and reminded them of, the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is faith, and tried to help their faith to grow.
Nephi then recounted to his brothers the blessings that occur because of faith and obedience:
1 Nephi 7:13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.
14 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.
By obedience to the word of the Lord by faith, they were to receive all the promised blessings attached to the commands. They not only would obtain a land of promise, they would also know of the definite destruction of the land of Jerusalem, of which had been prophesied. Both of these great blessings were dependent upon their faithfulness.
Nephi then acting as their leader and teacher warned them of the consequences of disobedience, and then boldly required them to choose.
1 Nephi 7:15 Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.
This exchange between Nephi and his brothers teaches us a wonderful lesson of choice and accountability. In the Master Teacher’s way, the “rebellious” are taught about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His power to deliver which qualifies Him as one to have faith in, and the blessings that are attached to obedience to His word. The consequences for disobedience are then laid before them in such a way that is unmistakably clear; obedience brings life, disobedience brings death. Finally, he allows them to choose for themselves. The result of their choice is crystal clear. The Lord is the one who provides the terms as shown by the statement that He “constraineth” Nephi, or required him to teach in this way.
Look for the reaction that Laman and Lemuel have to the choice they are given.
1 Nephi 7:16 And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
They obviously did not like the outcome of their choice if they disobey. They desired to choose for themselves, but are upset that they have no control of the consequences of their choice, which were set previous to the choice itself. They first became angry, then laid hands on their brother binding him with cords, and ultimately wished to take his life. The reaction that is displayed by these “rebellious” brothers is the same reaction that Jesus Christ himself received as he sought to teach these same truths to the rebellious of Jerusalem. The pattern is always the same.
The Lord loves us and allows us to choose for ourselves. He is a great parent, in that; He does not allow us to choose the consequences. He makes them clear and then lets us make a choice based on what we want to receive. This information allows us to exercise our agency properly. Some do not like this option because it makes them be accountable for their own actions.
Nephi later teaches this principle again:
1 Nephi 16:2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.
Understanding this principle as I do, I often wonder why I have such a rebellious soul at times. How about you?
The next part of the lesson in Chapter 7 is really my favorite part… you will see why…. in the next post.


Michaela Stephens said...

When I look back on times I have rebelled, they are usually because I hate the idea that I have been wrong about something or because I wanted to have my way because of something I wanted (wanting the wrong thing or something unimportant).

Something that has been strongly impressed upon me recently has been the necessity of cultivating a broken heart and contrite spirit as a way to escape rebellion. (See D&C 56:18) Remembering this has saved me just today from persisting in error.

Because I worked to keep my heart broken and contrite, I sensed that I had done something wrong. I tried to keep my heart open to receive instruction on what it was I had done wrong, and I searched the scriptures and words of the prophets for what it could be, so the Lord helped me realize what it was. Once I realized what it was, I repented and the Lord forgave me.

Elder Victor Moxley said...

This was much of the same topic Elder Kevin Pearson of the Seventy talked about tonight at the MTC Devotional. He stated that 'moral agency may be a much more fitting term to describe this precious gift, than free agency'. We're our own agents when it comes to moral choices between good and evil, as he explained, but we're really not free, especially if we don't choose wisely.