After This Manner of Language – 1 Nephi 5:4-6

4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
(1 Nephi 5:4-6)

In the verses preceding this passage, Sariah “complained against” her husband, Lehi. She called him a “visionary man” (which was not intended as a compliment), and she blamed him for the apparent deaths of their sons.
As Craig W. Zwick pointed out, Sariah’s fear and anger under the circumstances were understandable:

She was filled with anxiety about her quarrelsome sons returning to the place where her husband’s life had been threatened. She had traded her lovely home and friends for a tent in an isolated wilderness while still in her childbearing years. Pushed to the breaking point of her fears,…she expressed legitimate concerns to her husband in the language of anger and doubt and blame—a language in which the entire human race seems to be surprisingly proficient (“What Are You Thinking?” General Conference, April 2014).

The natural response for Lehi under the circumstances might have been defensiveness or stonewalling. But he neither fought back nor disengaged from his wife, but instead sought to comfort her by reminding her of truths they both knew which could give them hope:

  1. In leaving Jerusalem, they had escaped destruction.
  2. They were traveling to a land of promise, where they would prosper.
  3. The Lord had promised to protect their sons.
After discussing this incident, Elder Zwick provides us with this counsel:

There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief and behavior and across deep canyons of conflicting agendas. It is impossible to know all that informs our minds and hearts or even to fully understand the context for the trials and choices we each face….
I bear humble witness that we can “minister grace” through compassionate language when the cultivated gift of the Holy Ghost pierces our hearts with empathy for the feelings and context of others. It enables us to transform hazardous situations into holy places. (“What Are You Thinking?” General Conference, April 2014).

Today, I will follow Lehi’s example of empathy and kindness. I will discipline myself to avoid defensiveness, particularly in my communications with my wife. I will listen with an empathetic ear, and will respond with disciplined and compassionate language. I will strive to be aware of her feelings and context.

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