One of the major themes of the Book of Mormon is that if we make righteous choices, we will prosper, while if we choose wickedly, we will be cut off from God’s presence. (See 1 Nephi 2:20-21.) Laman and Lemuel weren’t happy, as they admitted to their brother Nephi. (See 2 Nephi 17:21.) No wonder that when Nephi shared some of the words of Isaiah with them, hoping that they would “liken them unto [themselves]” (1 Nephi 19:23-24), he started with a chapter about God’s people being unsettled and anxious because they refused to acknowledge His hand in their lives.
In Isaiah 48, which is quoted with some revisions in the Book of Mormon as 1 Nephi 20, the Lord reminds the children of Israel that He has taught them His gospel. He calls Himself “the Lord thy God who teacheth thee to profit, who leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst go” (1 Nephi 20:17). He points out their failure to acknowledge the truth when it was taught to them plainly and when they had so much evidence that it was true (1 Nephi 20:3-8). He reaffirms His commitment to helping them grow, in spite of their stubbornness (1 Nephi 20:9-11). Then, He makes clear that they will not experience peace and happiness, in spite of all He might do for them, until they choose to follow the principles He is teaching them:
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 20:19).
This verse might have had particular resonance for Laman and Lemuel because their father had named a river after Laman and a valley after Lemuel during their journey, hoping that they would adopt the attributes of these natural phenomena.
Isaiah’s main point in this chapter, as summarized in the final verse, is that no matter how much the Lord does for you, you will only experience the peace of the gospel if you choose to accept it and apply it. He can teach you how to be prosperous, He can provide support along the way, and He can rescue you from difficult situations. But if you fail to acknowledge His hand in your life and to act on the principles you have been taught, you will be unsettled and unhappy.
Today, I will remember that God’s commandments can bring peace into my life only if I am willing to humble myself and act on them. I will recommit to recognize God’s hand in my life and to follow the teachings of His gospel, knowing that those teachings will help me not only to be successful, but also to feel settled and peaceful in my heart.