The Book of Mormon begins with Nephi. When the story he shares of his life begins, he is the teenaged son of a wealthy man, probably living a life of privilege. His father is a prophet in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. There were many prophets at that time, all preaching the same message: Repent or Jerusalem will be destroyed. The people chose not to hear the message and Lehi, Nephi’s father, found his life in danger by those who didn’t want to believe they were sinners. God instructed Lehi to take his family, and only those items essential for survival, and flee into the wilderness, where, like the people of Moses, they would one day be led to a land of promise.
Nephi’s life changed dramatically that day. He went from living a life of privilege to living in tents in a new place each night, having few possessions and leaving behind his former life and friends. Most teenagers would have been angry and sullen over such a dramatic change of lifestyle. In fact, Nephi’s older brother, Laman and Lemuel, were angry and never got over that anger. They whined, complained, and rebelled. Nephi, however, had great faith. He trusted his father and he trusted God. He listened as his father taught the gospel and went to God in prayer.
Nephi’s life was never easy. His brothers resented Nephi’s faith, and frequently tried to murder him. After Lehi’s death, when the family was settled in a new land across the ocean, the persecution became so bad Nephi was forced to take his family and followers and leave, setting up a new home once again, in order to stay alive.
And yet, despite the trials of leaving a comfortable life, of leaving everything behind, of constant and dangerous persecution, of repeated attempts on his life, Nephi chose not to become bitter. He didn’t ask why God didn’t reward him for his faithfulness. Instead, in the first verse of the Book of Mormon, written some thirty years after he left Jerusalem, he wrote, “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days…” (I Nephi 1:1)
He was highly favored in all his days, including the ones where people tried to kill him. Nephi could have chosen to feel picked on and abused, but instead he chose to focus not on the attempted murders, but instead on the rescues that came each time. He focused not on leaving behind his wealth, but on receiving a land of promise.
One of the many lessons we can learn from Nephi is that our attitude can be a tool to help us retain our faith. His brothers lost whatever testimony they had because they chose to focus on the losses, not the blessings. Nephi went on to become a prophet and a man of faith and happiness because he focused on the blessings.
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.