The Book of Mormon begins with the story of a prophet named Lehi, commanded by God to preach repentance to the people of Jerusalem. The people didn’t care for the message, even when warned the city would be destroyed if they chose not to listen. Instead, they wanted to kill the messenger. And so, God instructed Lehi to gather his family and whatever supplies were essential to their survival, and head into the wilderness, toward a promised land God would provide for them.
Lehi’s two oldest sons were rebellious. They resented giving up their comfortable live as the son of a wealthy planter. Throughout the course of their lives, they would whine and fuss about everything.
After the family had been traveling for some time, God instructed Lehi to send his four sons back to Jerusalem to obtain some important records. These records contained the scriptures and their genealogy. True to form, Laman and Lemuel didn’t want to go.
1 Nephi 3:1 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
5 And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
6 Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
7 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.
Let’s take a moment to look at how the brothers reacted. The two oldest complained, saying, “It’s too hard!” Throughout the journey, they would continue to find everything too hard, and would be too eager to give up each time they faced a challenge in the assignment.
Nephi, on the other hand, did not complain. He said, in essence, “If God wants me to do it, then He will make it possible.” Because of his attitude, he was the one who obtained the plates they sought, even though it was indeed very hard.
Later, when the boys have returned and the family has traveled a bit further, God again instructs Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem. Ahh, but this time Laman and Lemuel don’t complain. They have to travel even further than before, but there is not one recorded word about it being too hard. Why not? Because their father is sending them back to get wives to take with them. Apparently they liked this commandment, and a journey that had been too hard before was suddenly no trouble at all.
It’s so much easier to keep the commandments we like, that line up with our own desires, isn’t it? The secret, then, is to align our will with God’s. Heavenly Father isn’t going to change the commandments just because we find them inconvenient or too hard. Therefore, we’re the ones who need to change. When we decide that everything God wants us to do is also what we want to do, obedience becomes easy.
This comes down to faith. We have to trust God to know what is best for us, even when what He asks is difficult. If we knew that cleaning our kitchen would earn us a thousand dollars next Tuesday, we’d have that kitchen cleaned days in advance. The blessings God has promised us for obedience are of far greater value than one thousand dollars. Surely we can find in them motivation to make the very best choices for our lives.
When you’re feeling sluggish about obedience, revisit the lives of Nephi and his brothers. You’ll find the inspiration you need to “go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”
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.