16 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)
The prophet Alma taught that if we can’t believe, we can at least start with a desire to believe (Alma 32:27). The Savior taught His apostles, when they asked him to increase their faith, that they could accomplish great things with very little faith–the size of a mustard seed (Luke 17:5-6). I think the message is this: it doesn’t take much to get started. Like a parent working with a small child, our Heavenly Father will accept our small and unsophisticated efforts and will help us build from there.
When Nephi’s father announced that the family would abandon their home and their possessions to travel in the wilderness, the family members reacted in different ways. As we read yesterday, Laman and Lemuel complained, because they couldn’t understand their father’s decision. In the passage above, Nephi tells us how he coped with this disruptive change. He prayed, and the Lord helped him believe the words of his father.
I’m so impressed with Nephi in this passage. He makes it clear that he could have followed the examples of his older brothers. He must have been as uncomfortable, as apprehensive, and as confused as they were initially. Their father had made a monumental decision which would affect them for the rest of their lives. But unlike his brothers, Nephi was willing to pay the price to understand where his father was coming from.
He says that he wanted to know the mysteries of God. Those mysteries might have been very specific and very personal: Why do we have to leave our comfortable life? Where are we going? Why is this good for our family? How can I be sure that my father is really inspired?
He says that the Lord softened his heart so that he believed. This implies that he didn’t believe before he prayed. He wanted to understand, but he needed the Lord’s help to open his mind and heart enough to accept the truth.
He says that, because he believed, he didn’t rebel. Nephi sees that decision to pray as a watershed moment in his life. If he hadn’t asked for help, his life might have unfolded very differently. This decision to reach out to God during a confusing time in his life set him on a course which led him to miraculous spiritual experiences and great happiness.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has promised:
When doubt or difficulty come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it…humbly and honestly…we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God.” I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief (“Lord, I Believe,” General Conference, April 2013).
Today, I will remember that God can soften my heart, as He did for Nephi. As I pray, I will not only ask for tangible blessings for myself and others, but I will ask for help in achieving an attitude of heart and mind which will enable me to face the challenges of the day with faith and optimism.