3 And it came to pass that in this year Nephi did cry unto the Lord, saying:
4 O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee.
5 And so it was done, according to the words of Nephi. And there was a great famine upon the land, among all the people of Nephi. And thus in the seventy and fourth year the famine did continue, and the work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine.
God gave Nephi the sealing power, which meant Nephi’s words on earth would be honored in heaven. God did this because He knew that Nephi would not ask anything contrary to His will. (See Helaman 10:4-11.)
In the passage above, Nephi uses this power. After preaching to the people, being rejected, and seeing a general increase in contention and violence among them, Nephi prays for a famine, on the theory that it will turn their hearts to God and motivate them to stop the fighting.
A famine is an unusual thing to pray for, particularly since Nephi was presumably affected by it as much as anyone else. But he had already demonstrated a willingness to make sacrifices in doing the work of the Lord, and he felt that this famine would serve God’s purposes.
As Mormon describes in the subsequent verses, the famine had at least three positive effects:
- The fighting stopped immediately (Helaman 11:5). Presumably, life-threatening hunger suddenly became more important to the people than whatever they had been fighting about.
- The people humbled themselves and repented (Helaman 11:9, 15).
- The people recognized Nephi as a representative of God and “did esteem him as a great prophet” (Helaman 11:7-8, 18).
Today, I will remember that adversity can serve the purpose of helping people turn their hearts to God. I’m not planning to specifically pray for adversity as Nephi did. However, I will recognize that as I pray for spiritual growth, both for myself and for others, God may answer those prayers in part by sending adversity. The trials we experience can motivate us to change our behavior, to humble ourselves, and to turn our hearts toward Him.