2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.
3 And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
4 And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
(1 Nephi 2:2-4)
Lehi left his house in Jerusalem, his property, and nearly all of his possessions because the Lord commanded him to “depart into the wilderness.” Where was he going? His family surely wanted to know. His friends and neighbors might have asked when they saw him assembling provisions and tents. But he apparently only knew that he was to leave the city. The Lord hadn’t told him where he was going.
Later in the chapter, Laman and Lemuel complain that their father has led them out of the city “to perish in the wilderness…because of the foolish imaginations of his heart” (1 Nephi 2:11). In response, Lehi taught them by the power of the Holy Ghost, but there’s no indication that he explained where they were going.
When Nephi later prayed for faith, the Lord promised him that his family would be led to a promised land (1 Nephi 2:20). That promise sustained him through the trials associated with his assignment to retrieve the brass plates (1 Nephi 4:14). But our first indication that Lehi knew about this promised land comes in the following chapter, as he tries to reassure his wife that everything will be okay (1 Nephi 5:5).
How did Lehi find the courage to follow the Lord’s command to depart into the wilderness without knowing where he was going? He had clearly learned to trust the Lord and to follow His guidance even without understanding the full context. He had to take a leap of faith, and only after demonstrating obedience to the first command would he begin to understand what he must do next.
Elder Richard G. Scott taught about the incremental nature of personal revelation:
Often when we pray for help with a significant matter, Heavenly Father will give us gentle promptings that require us to think, exercise faith, work, at times struggle, then act. It is a step-by-step process that enables us to discern inspired answers.
I have discovered that what sometimes seems an impenetrable barrier to communication is a giant step to be taken in trust. Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer. That pattern requires you to exercise faith in our Father’s capacity to respond. While sometimes it’s very hard, it results in significant personal growth (“Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” General Conference, April 2007).
Today, I will follow Lehi’s example of obedience to the things the Lord has commanded me to do. Instead of expecting to see the full plan before taking the first step, I will act on the guidance I have already received, trusting that more answers will follow. I will remember that acting in faith is essential for my spiritual development.