As I sat “studying” my scriptures the other day, hidden in my locked closet away from all the noise, I stumbled upon one of my favorite stories. Not very long, it is the account of Nephi building his boat. It is one that I have grown to love because of the lesson buried within.
But first, before I break this down for you, let me walk up back up there to “study”.
I used to think that in order to really study the scriptures you had to sit down with a triple combination, a journal, and peace and quiet. If you weren’t at it for at least half an hour—not good enough. No gold star for you. Or me, I guess, since I was the one who made that rule.
However, time, and children, have a way of altering carefully planned out routines. How many times have sincere and deeply needed prayers been interrupted because someone needed food, a shoulder to cry on, or to just throw up? I’ve lost track.
Location aside, the point is, by focusing on reading a few verses at a time, I can take five to ten minutes, maybe even less, and really think about what I have read. I’m going for quality here, my friends. Quantity can be left on the shelf for a later date.
Don’t feel guilty if you read your scriptures in the bathroom too. It happens to the best of us!
I WILL GO, I WILL DO
Now let’s get back to that boat.
What I find so fascinating about this story is that God made Nephi work. Nephi and his family didn’t just wake up one morning and go outside their tent and BAM!–BOAT!
No, God woke Nephi up from a deep sleep, probably filled with awesome dreams of winning the lottery or living somewhere that is not the desert, and told him to go climb a mountain.
Work, I tell you.
And then when he got to the top of that mountain, more work. The revelation Nephi received on that lofty peak was to go and build a boat. And not just any boat, one after the manner of God’s design.
So, if this were you and me, we could google “DIY boat God’s image” and pull up at least 30 images that had been shared on Facebook or Pinterest or twitter. We could then print off the design with a list of materials and head over to Lowe’s to fill a cart and charge our bank account. And then we could look up a Youtube video that would go over every step in long-winded detail.
Because that’s how we roll.
In Nephi’s day, however, he would have to …really, it’s just overwhelming.
- He would have to scout around the area to find minerals to make into metal
- He would have to make the tools to mine the minerals
- He would have to then mine
- Then he would have to figure out a way to refine the minerals into metal
- Form the molten metal into tools
- And the list goes on
- and on
- and on
This was God’s boat though, and he had a plan. Nephi, for his part, was obedient enough to just go and do it.
“I will go; I will do the things the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.”
(LDS Children’s Songbook, pg 120)
For the most part, this is a lesson in obedience. Nephi is in constant contact with God as he endeavors to build this boat. When his brothers complain and scoff about this project, Nephi turns to the scriptures.
WONDER AS YOU WANDER
The Israelites are wandering through the desert with Moses as their guide. They are in much the same position as Nephi and his family, if you think about it. Both groups left behind a life of familiarity only wander around in the desert en route to a promised land.
While Nephi proved his mettle by being obedient to what God asked him to do, no matter how complicated, the Israelites on the other hand were a different story.
Let’s just say their wandering wasn’t necessarily part of the plan. It was a consequence for whining and complaining. Am I right?!
Jehovah, however, being the gracious God of the Old Testament that He was, offered them a chance to redeem themselves.
After one riotous round of complaining about desert life, Jehovah let them have it.
the people, and they bit
the people; and much people
of Israel died”
The Israelites recognized the fiery serpents for what they were, a consequence for their poor choices. And they begged Moses to pray to Jehovah for deliverance.
Well, it came, but not in the form they were expecting. The serpents didn’t go away. Swords didn’t suddenly rain down from the sky either. There weren’t even vials of anti-venom to pass around.
Nothing as cool as that.
“And the LORD said unto Moses,
Make thee a fiery serpent,
and set it up on a pole:
and it shall come to pass,
that every one that is bitten,
when he looketh upon it,
They simply had to be obedient. They had to put their pride aside and do what they were asked. Something that they had not bargained on.
They had to work.
Oh yeah, you could argue that looking at a brass serpent on a stick isn’t necessarily hard work, and you would be right. But they had to choose to use their bodies to do something just the same.
So, what does this mean for us?
How often have we gone to the Lord with questions, seeking for an answer? Let’s qualify that with—OUR answer.
When HIS answer is received, and it doesn’t match our own, do we recognize it as an answer? Or do we keep asking, hoping that our voice will come out of His mouth?
It’s almost like we are asking for fiery serpents of our very own.
Sometimes God’s answers to our prayers match the one we figure out for ourselves. But more often, they do not.
His answer is usually one that requires work.
OUT OF THE ORDINARY
One of the things that I like about the story of Nephi and the boat so much is that Nephi followed the plan no matter how out of the ordinary it was.
“Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee…”
(1 Nephi 17: 8)
I like this because sometimes the trials or dilemmas we are faced with in life can be solved in more than one way. And God knows that. But we don’t always recognize that for ourselves.
SMART PHONES AND KNITTING NEEDLES
One time our sink disposal unit stopped working. You know, that thing we Canadians call a garburator but you Americans have no idea what we are talking about. It sits under the sink and grinds up food we want to wash down the drain.
I could tell that the motor was still working because when I turned it on, I could hear it whirring, but there was no turning and grinding. Leary of spending more money on yet another household appliance, I decided that I should pray and ask Heavenly Father if he could help me solve this problem on my own.
So I did. There on the tile floor of my kitchen, I uttered a heart felt prayer for God to show me the way.
And that’s when I thought about knitting needles.
You know I love to knit, and I do. So, how could ADD hit me at this moment when I needed some help?!
But an image of the same tiny blue knitting needle came into my mind again. Only this time, the image had expanded to include where the knitting needle was sitting. Upstairs in a plastic shelving system by my desk.
Oh. Kay. That’s specific.
I got the point.
Is this me, or is this God? Does God include smart phones and apps in answers to prayers?!
Not one to relish spending lots of money on mere conveniences, I decided to download the app. If it was really God communicating with me and not my ADD kicking in, I didn’t want to be on the other side of revelation.
App downloaded, I fired up the flashlight and shone it into the garburator…oops, sink disposal. Inside, I could see tiny broken beads wedged into the gear shafts, thus making it impossible for the gears to turn. So that’s why the device wouldn’t work.
Thank you flashlight app. Now to work with the knitting needle.
Previously, I had tried using a kitchen knife or fork, but they were shaped too awkwardly to get inside the disposal unit to be of any help. With this knitting needle and the flashlight from my phone, I was able to see just where to place the point to pop the bead out.
The bead popped out on the first try. And goose bumps popped up on my arms.
Tears streamed down my face as it hit me like a ton of bricks how specifically my prayer had been answered. And how uncommon the answer was.
The answer didn’t involve a repair man or the problem magically disappearing.
The answer involved a few nick nacks from around the house and Magyver-like skill and tenacity.
Just because the answer to the prayer has been revealed, it doesn’t mean its all smooth sailing from here on out. We have to keep looking at the bronze snake, or like Nephi, stay in constant contact with the Lord for support along the way.
In the end, my sink disposal worked like new. Or at least, like it did before. And that knitting needle didn’t make it back to my knitting stash. It sits in a place where I can see it every day to remind me that prayers are not always answered in the most obvious of ways.
IN THE END
In the end, it appears that 10 minutes of scripture study does deserve a gold star!
Just look at my own experience from applying the principles learned from a scripture story a few verses long.
Sure, coaxing a few broken beads out of a garbage disposal is no big thing, but knowing how exacting a loving Father in Heaven can be when answering our prayers is.
Like Nephi and the boat, Heavenly Father showed me how to solve a problem in an uncommon way. And just like Nephi and the Israelites, the answer to the prayer required work on my part.
Sometimes, the only prayer we need to utter is: “Lord, give me the strength to do what needs to be done.”
While studying for this article, I read a post about Nephi and the boat that went something like this: “If God could provide miracles, why didn’t he just teleport them or give them a speed boat?! What a fantastical story!”
Well, yes, I suppose God could have done that. But the real point of the lesson here is this, if we allow ourselves to become malleable in God’s hands (read: obedient), he can help us achieve great things in ways we couldn’t even begin to conceive. He can stretch our capabilities and confidence beyond what we thought possible.
The answer to the prayer becomes the invitation to accept the journey, and then we can solve the problem ourselves.
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.