36 And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.
Nephi’s neighbors were highly resistant to his message of repentance. As we saw yesterday, the most obstinate among them tried to damage his credibility by pointing out that he was alone. He countered by reminding them of numerous prophets who had taught the same principles he was teaching.
Nephi then provided an undeniable demonstration that he was a man of God. He told them that their chief judge had been murdered, and he later provided them with enough information to identify the murderer and get him to confess. Nephi’s intention was to restore his own credibility, so that they would take seriously his message. “Then shall ye know that I am an honest man,” he says, “and that I am sent to you from God.”
Everything happened just as Nephi said it would, and the people no longer doubted his words. But they still were not willing to humble themselves and repent, not until they experienced a severe famine which convinced them of the seriousness of their situation. At that point, they knew where to turn for help. They “began to plead with their chief judges and their leaders, that they would say unto Nephi: Behold, we know that thou art a man of God, and therefore cry unto the Lord our God that he turn away from us this famine” (Helaman 11:8). Seeing that they were repentant, Nephi pleaded with God on their behalf, the famine ended, and the people rejoiced and recognized Nephi “as a great prophet, and a man of God” (Helaman 11:18).
Nephi’s integrity was critical throughout this process. Even though it took the people some time to acknowledge him as a man of God, and even longer to be willing to do what he taught, his steadiness and consistent integrity was critical to their eventual repentance.
Joseph F. Smith taught that a high priest should
set an example before the old and young worthy of emulation, and…place himself in a position to be a teacher of righteousness, not only by precept but more particularly by example–giving to the younger ones the benefit of the experience of age, and thus becoming individually a power in the midst of the community in which he dwells (quoted by President Dallin H. Oaks in “The Powers of the Priesthood,” General Conference, April 2018).
Today, I will remember the importance of consistent integrity as I teach others. As Nephi’s story illustrates, my steady example can serve as a beacon which may be more impactful over time than my words.