Laman and Lemuel were the two oldest sons of the prophet Lehi. Lehi was the first prophet of the Book of Mormon, a man called to cry repentance to the Jews, and then instructed by God to take his family and only the most essential possessions and flee into the wilderness. Although Lehi’s two younger sons, and the two born in the wilderness stayed faithful to the gospel, the two oldest were rebellious. They did not want to leave their life of privilege behind and embark on one of hardship and sacrifice.
Not only did they complain constantly, but periodically they attacked their younger brother Nephi, whose faith was powerful and who would later take over his father’s role as the prophet and lead the righteous among the family. Sometimes they even tried to murder him.
Periodically, God sent angels to stop the persecution and to warn the brothers to behave and to accept Nephi as their leader. Often, when we read this, we’re astounded that despite having seen angels and having been told by these angels that all which had happened was God’s will, the brothers still refused to believe. They would stop only momentarily, but very soon, returned to their whining and persecuting.
1 Nephi 3: 29-31: 29 And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.
30 And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.
31 And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?
Wouldn’t it seem that if an angel said you could do it, you’d believe it? Nephi, only a teenager at this time, was also puzzled. “…ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” (1 Nephi 4:3)
However, Nephi hadn’t waited for an angel to convert him. When they were in the wilderness and Laman and Lemuel started murmuring, Nephi chose a different path. “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. (1 Nephi 2: 16)
It is clear, as you read about Nephi, that he had begun to develop his faith long ago, long before it was put to the test. He had also begun to develop his obedient nature long before. When the trial of faith came, he was ready and he chose the appropriate path because he knew exactly what to do. Instead of whining, he turned to God to gain a testimony of the events that were taking place. However he might have initially felt about his father’s announcement, he sought spiritual guidance and then obeyed it.
It was because he initiated the search for answers , and because he had, as he said, great desires to understand God, that he could not be sidetracked from the correct path. He obeyed God and trusted Him and so he was able to be fully converted.
Angels don’t convert. The spirit of God does, but to feel it, you must be living a worthy life, one which invites the Spirit to be with you at all times. If you’ve hardened your heart to the presence of God, you won’t hear or believe the answers He gives you.
To be certain of staying on the correct path, don’t wait for angels. Find your own answers through prayer and don’t wait for the angel.
President George Q. Cannon, a member of the first presidency in the 1800s, said of conversion by miracle: “It has been a matter of remark among those who have had experience in this Church that where men have been brought into the Church by such manifestations, it has required a constant succession of them to keep them in the Church; their faith has had to be constantly strengthened by witnessing some such manifestations; but where they have been convinced by the outpouring of the spirit of God, … they have been more likely to stand, more likely to endure persecution and trial than those who have been convinced through some supernatural manifestation.” Dallin H. Oaks, “Miracles,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 6
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.