Out of Darkness Unto Light – 2 Nephi 3:5

5 Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light–yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.
(2 Nephi 3:5)

In teaching his son Joseph about his spiritual heritage, Lehi told him about one of their ancestors, also named Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Joseph knew that the Messiah would be a descendant of his older brother Judah. But he also prophesied that his descendants would come into contact with the Messiah, who would lead them out from darkness to light and from captivity to freedom.

Today, I’ve been thinking about the different kinds of darkness I experience and how the Savior has helped me or can help me overcome them.

  1. I experience the darkness of not knowing. Sometimes, I just don’t have enough information to make a crucial decision or to know how to handle a problem.
  2. I experience the darkness of discouragement. When it looks like I won’t be able to achieve a goal, my courage to keep trying can quickly erode.
  3. I experience the darkness of contention. When relationships with other people are strained or damaged, it can affect my productivity in all aspects of my life.
  • The Savior can bring me from all of these kinds of darkness into light, which in turn makes me free. He can provide knowledge and guidance. He can encourage and inspire me in the face of difficulty. He can heal my relationships with others. His influence bestows those who follow Him with power: power to choose wisely, power to endure challenges, power to love.
  • Today I will be grateful for the active role the Atonement of Jesus Christ can play in my life. I will be grateful that, as Lehi taught, the Savior has the power to bring us “out of darkness unto light.”
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The Great Mediator – 2 Nephi 2:27-29

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
(2 Nephi 2:27-29)

A mediator is a person who resolves a conflict between two other people. As Lehi teaches his sons in this passage, Jesus Christ is the ultimate Mediator, resolving what appears to be the unresolvable conflict: the gap between our sinful lives and God’s perfect justice. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:16). He meant that we aren’t capable of meeting our Heavenly Father’s standard for exaltation on our own. Only through His Atonement can we be purified and sanctified–changed into a person who can meet the standard. So unlike an ordinary mediator, who might look for common ground between the parties, Jesus lifts us up to meet a standard which God sets, enabling us to become infinitely better than we could have become without His help.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5). Unlike a normal mediator, who is objective and neutral, Jesus put Himself on the line, suffering punishment for sins He did not commit, paying personally for our deficiencies in order to close the gap between what we are and what we must be to return to God.

As Lehi teaches above, if we look to Jesus Christ and keep His commandments, we are choosing liberty and eternal life. This is not because we’ve earned it, but because we have engaged the only One who is capable of making those blessings available to us. On the other hand, if we choose to follow “the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein,” we reject the help of our Mediator and become subject to the devil, who wants to destroy our freedom and make us miserable. Each of us must choose, but it is important to understand the choice and its eternal consequences.

Today, I will “look to the great Mediator.” I will be grateful for an intermediary who is not neutral and objective, but rather cares very much about my welfare. I will also be grateful that He is not merely seeking an adequate compromise but rather a perfect outcome.

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Enticed by the One or the Other – 2 Nephi 2:16

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
(2 Nephi 2:16)

No one likes to be forced to do things. We all like making our own choices. In the book Drive, author Daniel Pink identifies “autonomy” as a powerful motivator for employees.

In the passage above, Lehi explains that God designed this mortal experience with individual agency in mind. From the beginning, He “gave unto man that he should act for himself.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson has identified three conditions which are necessary for individual agency:

  1. There must be alternatives.
  2. We must know what the alternatives are.
  3. We must be capable of choosing between the alternatives (“Moral Agency,” BYU Devotional Address, 31 January 2006).

The second of these conditions emphasizes the relationship between education and agency. In the words of Elder Christofferson, “If we are unaware of the choices available, the existence of those choices is meaningless.” Thus, we strengthen the agency of other people by making them aware of options they didn’t realize they had.

As Lehi says in the passage above, we can’t act for ourselves without being “enticed” by something we are capable of choosing. It seems obvious that we choose things because they are attractive to us, because we believe that they will bring us joy. A better understanding of our options includes a better understanding of the consequences, so that the outcomes of our decisions can be consistent with our true desires.

Today, I will remember the importance of knowledge as a basis for good decision-making. I will strive to acquire the best information available about the decisions I must make. I will also work on providing good information to other people, including my children, to assist them in making wise decisions.

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A Land of Promise – 2 Nephi 1:5

5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
(2 Nephi 1:5)

After escaping the destruction of Jerusalem and traveling to the American continent, Lehi spoke with his children. He reminded them how merciful the Lord had been to them, both in warning them to leave Jerusalem and in guiding and protecting them during a dangerous journey, even though they were not always faithful to Him (2 Nephi 2:1-4).

Then, he rejoiced in the land they had inherited. From the beginning of their journey, Lehi had assured them that God was leading them to a “land of promise” (1 Nephi 5:5). What was this land like? How would it be different from the place they had lived previously? What would be easier there, and what would be more challenging? Lehi didn’t know. But he knew God was leading his family there, and he therefore knew that it would be amazing.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once reassured the young adults of the Church that the concept of a promised land is applicable to all of us:

If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, He will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church or raising a family, of going on a mission, or any one of a hundred other worthy tasks in life. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.”
What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going (“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” BYU Devotional Address 2 March 1999).

Today, I will continue to pursue my dreams with confidence that the Lord is leading me and my family and will help us arrive at our “promised land.”

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A Marvelous Work – 1 Nephi 22:8-9

8 And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
9 And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
(1 Nephi 22:8-9)

After reading two chapters from the book of Isaiah to his brothers, Nephi explained the relevance of those scriptures. Among other things, he described a “marvelous work” which the Lord would do: the Gentiles would spiritually nourish the children of Israel in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that all nations would one day enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

This work would originate among the Gentiles, but it would not only bless them. It would spread to bless the descendants of Israel, including the descendants of Nephi and his brothers.

Something is “marvelous” when its observers find it amazing, extraordinary, or awe-inspiring. The word descends from the Latin word mirus, which means wonderful (Online Etymology Dictionary). Mirus is also the root of the word “miracle.”

Nephi was likely alluding to another passage from Isaiah, in which the Lord promises to respond to rebellion and hypocrisy by performing “a marvellous work and a wonder,” which will cause the people to recognize His hand and regain their perspective on what is truly important (Isaiah 29:14, 2 Nephi 27:26). I particularly like the NIV translation of this verse:

Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.

To me, it’s energizing to know that God is at work in the world, and that I can expect to see miracles over time. In the most recent general conference of the Church, President Russell M. Nelson promised:

Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will be grateful for God’s patient but powerful work which blesses all of His children. I will watch for His “marvelous work” in my life and in the lives of others. I will be grateful for His active and miraculous involvement in the progression of His children.

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In an Acceptable Time – 1 Nephi 21:8

8 Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
(1 Nephi 21:8, Isaiah 49:8)

We learn patience by adapting to God’s timing. In this passage, God explains to scattered Israel that He has not forgotten them, and that He will provide them with promised blessings at the appropriate time. This passage must have been particularly meaningful to Nephi’s family, who had traveled across the ocean to escape destruction in Jerusalem, and thus saw themselves as being on “the isles of the sea.” (See 2 Nephi 10:20-22.) Their journey was part of the scattering of Israel. Their life was a sojourn in the wilderness, and even after arriving in the promised land, conflict within the family prevented them from enjoying peace.

But as Isaiah teaches throughout this chapter, God sees the big picture, while we are so often stuck in the moment. We want answers now. We want resolution to the challenges we face immediately. We don’t want to wait. But God provides those blessings “in an acceptable time,” according to His superior knowledge and eternal perspective.

Earlier this year, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf discussed this principle. In a talk to young adult members of the Church, he reflected on his own life:

When I was your age I had no idea where my life would take me. I definitely didn’t see any dots connecting in front of me.
But I did trust God. I listened to the advice of loving family and wise friends, and took small steps of faith, believing that if I did the best I could in the moment, God would take care of the big picture.
He did.
He knew the end from the beginning when I did not.
I could not see the future, but He could.
Even during those times of hardship when I thought I was abandoned, He was with me—I see that now (“The Adventure of Mortality,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, January 14, 2018).

Today, I will remember that faith in God includes faith in His timing. I will acknowledge my own limited perspective and will move forward with faith, trusting that God is with me and that all of His blessings will come to me “in an acceptable time.”

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Peace…as a River, and…Righteousness as the Waves of the Sea – 1 Nephi 20:18

18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments–then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.
(1 Nephi 20:18, Isaiah 48:18)

The imagery in this passage from Isaiah is compelling to me.

I can easily imagine a calm, wide river, flowing powerfully but with no anxiety or conflict. The flat glassy surface betokens peace and tranquility. This peace is not the absence of power but rather the channeling of power to useful purposes.

I can also visualize waves: dynamic, constant, and unyielding. You can surf them but you can’t control them. They move in accordance with a celestial rhythm. Waves are caused by wind and by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. (“Why Does the Ocean Have Waves?” National Ocean Service website)

It seems to me that if I want peace in my life like that river, and if I want my righteous efforts to be as powerful as ocean waves, then I need my life to be in harmony with celestial patterns as well. As Isaiah explains above, that peace and that power can be ours, if we are willing to obey the commandments of our Father in Heaven.

Today, I will be grateful for a God who is willing to share His peace and His power with me. I will recommit to obey His commandments, so that my peace might be like a river and my righteousness might be like the waves of the sea.

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