16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.
(1 Nephi 10:16)
At the beginning of this chapter, Nephi relates a number of doctrines which his father taught after sharing his vision of the tree of life. These teachings included:
- The destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity (v. 3)
- The coming of a Messiah or a Redeemer, 600 years later (v. 4-5)
- The fallen state of mankind, and our need for this Redeemer (v. 6)
- The ministry of John the Baptist, and the fact that he would baptize the Savior (v. 7-10)
- The Savior’s ministry among the Jewish people, and his death and resurrection (v. 11)
- The subsequent scattering and gathering of the Jewish people, which he compared to an olive tree (v. 12-14)
After telling us that his father taught them many more truths (v. 15), Nephi concludes with the passage above: “And all of these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.”
Nephi used essentially this same phrase in the prior chapter, just after his description of his father’s dream (1 Nephi 9:1). And, lest we forget, he repeats nearly the identical phrase after relating his own vision and his discussion with his brothers about his new understanding of these doctrines (1 Nephi 16:6). He seems to consider it very important for us to remember the setting in which these remarkable events took place.
Here’s the message I get from this verse: even though we will try to create appropriate environments for spiritual experiences, they will come to us when we are ready, even when our circumstances are less than ideal. Lehi and Nephi might have learned these spiritual truths while they still lived in comfort in the city of Jerusalem, but they didn’t. They learned them under less-than-perfect conditions, living in tents on the banks of a river near the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:5-6).
Today, I will remember that spiritual experiences and deep learning can occur in whatever circumstances I find myself. While I will strive to place myself in environments which are conducive to study, prayer, and pondering, I will also remember that the Spirit of the Lord can speak to me throughout the day, even when I am in suboptimal circumstances. My willingness to listen is more important than my surroundings in determining my ability to learn spiritual truths.