In the previous article in this series, we met Nephi, a teenager whose father, Lehi, was a prophet in Jerusalem just before the fall of the city. The Book of Mormon tells us that Lehi’s life was in danger because of his prophecies, so God instructed him to take his family and flee the city, leaving everything behind but the absolute necessities for travel.
They traveled for about two weeks to the shores of the Red Sea and about three days beyond that. On their arrival in a place they called the Valley of Lemuel, they built an alter and thanked the Lord for their blessings.
The two oldest sons lacked faith and they chose to deal with their lack of faith by complaining about having to leave their wealth and home. Nephi, the fourth son, took his sadness to the Lord and came away with a testimony that this really was God’s will. He discussed his experience to his brother Sam:
“…behold, I did cry unto the Lord and he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe…” (1 Nephi 2:16).
Sam believed Nephi’s testimony and the two of them supported their parents.
When Nephi returned to his father’s tent after speaking to the Lord, he learned that his father Lehi had experienced a dream, which God often used as a means of communication. In this dream, the Lord told Lehi to send the four boys back to Jerusalem to obtain some important records. These records contained the scriptures available at the time, a record of the Jews, and the family’s genealogy. Because they were going to leave the continent—although they didn’t know this yet—the records would be important if their descendants were to have the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Attitude Toward Trials
Naturally, Laman and Lemuel, the two older sons, whined about this. It was their standard response to everything. Sam appears to have just quietly packed his bags and gotten ready to go. Nephi, however, explained his feelings on the request in eloquent words that Mormons find helpful to recite when the Lord asks hard things of us:
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)
Sometimes when we pray, the answers catch us off-guard. We think we know exactly how life ought to progress and all we’re looking for is for God to say, “Oh, you’re so smart. Yes, do it exactly that way.” Instead, He often sends us off in directions that make no sense at all. The “perfect” job goes to someone else while we either don’t get one for a really long time or get one that we have no experience in. We find ourselves having to move to a place we vowed we’d never live. God gives us a task that is too hard, too far outside our comfort zone, and too complex—or that just doesn’t make any sense.
When God’s Requests Don’t Make Sense
Nephi’s brothers probably thought it made no sense to go all the way back for a book. Why didn’t they just bring it to start with? Who needs books anyway, they might have wondered. God didn’t explain why. He merely told them to go do it. Nephi understood that although he didn’t know why, it didn’t matter. He also knew that even though it seemed like an impossible task—the book belonged to a relative who was very mean and greedy—God would make it possible. If it weren’t possible and there was no other reason to go back, then God wouldn’t have sent them. He headed out with nothing but his faith as a plan.
Things didn’t go easily and Laban, the man who owned the book, tried to kill them over it. The others wanted to give up, but Nephi held on to his testimony that if God asks you to do something he will help you do it. He continued to believe that God wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important. He went alone and got the book through a series of events that required God’s timing and that probably explained, aside from it being a lesson of faith, why they needed to go back.
“When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power” (Elder Donald L. Staheli, Obedience–Life’s Great Challenge, Ensign, May 1998, 82).
You might be interested to know that they were later sent back one more time, this time to obtain wives. Somehow, Laman and Lemuel didn’t find a need to complain about that journey at all. This one time, their desires lined up with God’s. For Nephi, though, lining up his will with God’s was a permanent way of life, not just one he practiced when he easily saw the benefits.
Read about Nephi’s journey to get the scriptures.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.