Today I have been thinking about an old scripture mastery… I think it may still be a scripture mastery, but I’m not sure because I am no longer teaching seminary. This scripture may be the first scripture I ever memorized… way back when I was in seminary.
“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.” – 1 Nephi 3:7
I believe most Mormons are very familiar with this scripture. As the story of Lehi’s family unfolds, he tells his sons that they are commanded of the Lord to return to their home town to retrieve the brass plates. They would need to travel a great distance to obey. They would learn that they would fail twice before succeeding.
Nephi responded to his father with great courage. It took courage because he didn’t know for sure what the Lord was going to do. He had faith. When Nephi uses the words “I know” he is demonstrating his faith. He might have been expressing a sure knowledge of a covenant relationship with the Lord. He alluded to it in 1 Nephi 2… examples: he had “great desires to know the mysteries of God, wherefore he did cry unto the Lord,” and “he [the Lord] did visit me, ” and “I did not rebel” (1 Nephi 2:16).
He had learned through conversing with the Lord that God promised him: “inasmuch as ye keep my commandments, ye shall prosper” (1 Nephi 2:20). He understood that this request was actually a commandment (he repeats the word 3 times in verse 7, demonstrating that he does understand it to be a commandment). The commandment to get the plates was necessary so that Nephi’s seed could keep the commandments given to the house of Israel. The commandments to get the plates was a commandment to make the scriptures and the commandments written in the scriptures important with the family unit.
One reason we are on this earth is to show our willingness to obey the commandments of the Lord. We came here knowing that this earth life is a time of testing. “We will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (Abraham 3:24-25).” God really does give us commandments for our benefit. Sometimes we catch ourselves thinking that commandments are a burden and that they limit personal freedom. The Savior taught that real freedom comes from following him: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32). Commandments are loving instructions to help us to be happy. They are for our physical and spiritual well-being. Really!
Nephi is a model for keeping the commandments even when doing so is a challenge or difficult. Nephi was an example of an obedient servant of the Lord throughout his life. President Thomas S. Monson taught, “Though others faltered in their faith and their obedience, never once did Nephi fail to do that which the Lord asked of him. Untold generation have been blessed as a result.”
Obedience to the Lord commandments is an expression of our love for the Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
I don’t think his “knowledge” meant that he knew he would succeed without effort or without trials. Clearly, Nephi’s life was challenging. His brother’s were rebellious and abusive. He experienced loss of worldly possessions. He was walked and worked for many years to get to the “promised land.” He experienced hunger. He experienced the death of loved ones. He experienced disappointment. Yet his attitude was a positive attitude. What he knew was that in the end, God would make all things right. He knew that God loved him and that God would help him understand eventually. He knew that what God required was effort… his best effort and that effort would make his obligation complete and fulfilled, even if he failed to complete his errand. Nephi teaches me that while the Lord may prepare the way, the way prepared is not always easy. Nephi proved that he was determined and willing to be “led by the Spirit” (1 Nephi 4:6).
President Henry B Eyring taught that this kind of commitment to doing what is asked comes from trusting in the Lord: “The young Nephi in the Book of Mormon stirs in us a desire to develop trust in the Lord to obey His commandments, however hard they appear to us. Nephi faced danger and possible death when he said these words of trust that we can and must steadily in our hearts… That trust comes from knowing God.”
“I will go…” a statement of committed devotion!
“You show your trust in [God] when you listen with intent to learn and repent and then you go and do whatever He asks. If you trust God enough to listen for His message in every sermon, song, prayer in [each] conference, you will find it. And if you then go and do what He would have you do, your wooer to trust him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you.” – President Henry B. Eyring
“… do…” a statement of action.
“I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” – President Joseph Smith, Jr.
Nephi was diligent! He kept trying. He kept “swimming.”
I have learned great lessons from Nephi and his faithful willingness and diligence.
What are some “hard things” the Lord has commanded us to do?
What ever it is, a personal “commandment” directed through the whispering of the Spirit or the general commandments, I need to practice use Nephi’s faith and courage and the Lord will provide a way for me to do so.