11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?–If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
(1 Nephi 15:11)
How do we know when we are asking spiritual questions in a productive way? Nephi gives his brothers some guidance on that topic in this passage.
Just prior to the passage, all of the brothers lacked knowledge. Their father, Lehi, had shared a symbolic dream which was difficult to understand. He had also taught them some new doctrines about the scattering and gathering of Israel, using the imagery of an olive tree.
Nephi worked on his questions by pondering and praying, with full confidence that God would make the answers known to him. In response, he experienced a miraculous vision which not only answered his questions but gave him additional knowledge (1 Nephi 10:17-19, 1 Nephi 11:1).
In contrast, his brothers debated the meaning of their father’s words among themselves (1 Nephi 15:2). They did not ask the Lord for help because they didn’t believe that God would answer them (1 Nephi 15:3, 8-9). Consequently, their efforts were unsuccessful.
In the passage above, Nephi provides some keys for finding answers to our questions:
- Don’t harden your heart. Sometimes in the way we phrase our question, we limit our ability to receive an answer. For example, we might ask, “If God really exists, why did X happen?” Depending on our attitude, this may be more of an accusation than a true question. We are unlikely to receive an answer if we are unwilling to accept it.
- Ask God in faith, believing that you will receive an answer. At the beginning of Nephi’s vision, the Spirit asked if he believed the words he had heard his father speak (1 Nephi 11:4). Just before the brother of Jared saw the Lord, he was asked, “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” (Ether 3:11). A fundamental characteristic of spiritual knowledge is that it is preceded by faith.
- Diligently keep God’s commandments. It is one thing to say we believe God, but how do we show it? By doing what He has asked us to do. This includes the commandments we have been taught, but it also includes personalized commandments we may receive from the Holy Ghost while we search. The Spirit said to Nephi, “Look,” and he looked (1 Nephi 11:8). He approached the experience with a willingness to follow the guidance he was given.
Today, I will seek answers to my questions by following the pattern taught by Nephi. I will choose not to harden my heart. I will pray with faith, believing that God will answer me. And I will strive to obey God’s commandments, including the promptings I receive through His Spirit.