2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.
(1 Nephi 15:2-3)
One piece of advice I’ve heard from my dad countless times is this: “You always ask.” Even if you think the answer will be “no,” it’s usually better to find out for sure, and you may be surprised. Some things that seem impossible may actually be doable. And by requesting help from others, you may be opening the door for them to assist you in unexpected ways. Above all, this saying has reminded me not to be satisfied with incomplete information. When I don’t know something and someone else clearly does, I would be wise to request their help.
Think about how Nephi’s willingness to ask questions enabled him to be more successful than his less inquisitive brothers. When his father led the family away from their comfortable home in Jerusalem to live in tents in the wilderness, Nephi was able to adapt because he asked Heavenly Father to help him understand:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers (1 Nephi 2:16).
Likewise, when their father taught them doctrines which were difficult to understand, Nephi responded by asking the Lord to show him the things which his father had seen (1 Nephi 11:1-3). As he explains to his readers, he was confident that he would receive an answer, because God had answered other people in earlier times and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (1 Nephi 10:17-19). Therefore, Nephi knew that he could receive an answer as well.
In contrast, his brothers responded to these difficult doctrines, as he tells us in the passage above, by arguing with each other. As they later explained to him, they didn’t ask God to help them understand because “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:9). In other words, it’s no use asking, because we don’t believe we’ll receive an answer.
Today, I had the opportunity to request help from a senior executive at my company for a worthy cause. I’m grateful that I and my colleagues were not afraid to request the help, even though we weren’t certain how the request would be received. I don’t yet know the outcome, but the presentation was well received, and I think we have a good chance of receiving the assistance we need. In any event, we have a much better probability of success than we would have if we had failed to make the request.
If I have the courage to ask a mortal man for help, then surely I can follow Nephi’s example and ask God for the understanding I need. In particular, when I encounter circumstances which are challenging or when I have a hard time understanding doctrines of the gospel or practices in the Church, I will follow Nephi’s example and ask Heavenly Father for help. Instead of fearing that He won’t answer, and instead of relying on debate and human wisdom to solve my issues, I will approach my Heavenly Father with the confidence that He will hear and answer my prayers. I will follow my father’s advice: “You always ask.”