19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
(1 Nephi 2:19-20)
After leaving the city of Jerusalem, Nephi prayed to have his heart softened so that he could believe the words of his father and have an appropriate attitude about his new circumstances. When he received his answer, he was eager to share it with his brothers. One of them, Sam, believed him. But Laman and Lemuel refused to listen. Disheartened by their response, he prayed for them.
In the passage above, we read the first part of the Lord’s answer:
- Addressing Nephi directly, He uses the singular word “thou.” He praises Nephi for his diligence and humility and acknowledges that Nephi has received or will receive blessings for his faithfulness.
- Addressing Nephi’s concern for other family members, He provides a conditional promise to the group, using the plural word “ye.” If the family collectively will keep the Lord’s commandments, then they will “prosper, and…be led to a land of promise.”
I think there’s an important lesson in this passage. Many of the blessings that the Lord wants to give us are conditional on our obedience. “Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them” (“Prayer,” Bible Dictionary). When we receive blessings from the Lord, it is natural for us to want those same blessings for the people we love. But we may not be able to obtain those blessings on their behalf. They may need to exercise their own agency in order to receive those blessings. We can certainly pray for them. We can encourage them and work to influence their behavior, but as Elder Robert D. Hales taught:
We cannot pray away another’s agency…. We can pray for guidance about when to speak, what to say, and yes, on some occasions, when to be still. Remember, our children and family members already chose to follow the Savior in their premortal realm. Sometimes it is only by their own life’s experiences that those sacred feelings are awakened again. Ultimately, the choice to love and follow the Lord has to be their own (“‘Come, Follow Me’ by Practicing Christian Love and Service,” General Conference, October 2016)
Today, as I pray for family members and others I love, I will remember the importance of their agency in receiving blessings from the Lord. I will ask for blessings on their behalf, and I will seek guidance on how to teach and encourage them. But I will remember that that they must ultimately make righteous choices in order to receive the blessings of the gospel in their lives.