Like the prophet Abraham, Nephi received a conditional promise from the Lord with an intergenerational impact.
After the Lord commanded his father, Lehi, to abandon their home in Jerusalem and “depart into the wilderness” with his family, Nephi’s brothers were angry. Nephi must have also been unhappy about the sudden change, but he prayed, and as he tells us, the Lord “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).
When he tried to share this experience with his brothers, only one of them—Sam—believed him. The other two—Laman and Lemuel—wouldn’t listen. He prayed for them, and in response, the Lord told him:
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.
And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord (1 Nephi 2:20-21).
This dual conditional promise is repeated many times in the Book of Mormon. Here’s Lehi’s more concise version as he taught Laman and Lemuel near the end of his life:
Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence (2 Nephi 1:20).
Many prophets referenced this promise as they taught their children. Even though the promise was given to Nephi under a specific set of circumstances, there was a recognition that this promise was generally applicable and certainly that it was relevant to Nephi’s descendants. Here are a few examples:
- Jarom: “The word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (Jarom 1:9).
- Omni: “The Lord…would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land” (Omni 1:6).
- King Benjamin: “I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers” (Mosiah 1:7). (See also Mosiah 2:22.)
- Alma: “My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land” (Alma 36:1). (See also Alma 9:13, Alma 36:30, Alma 37:13, Alma 38:1).
- The people who followed Captain Moroni: “This was their faith, that…if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger” (Alma 48:15). (See also Alma 50:19-22.)
- Mormon: “And insomuch as the children of Lehi have kept his commandments he hath blessed them and prospered them according to his word” (3 Nephi 5:22).
Nephi prayed for his brothers as their family passed through a challenging experience. But the answer he received blessed his descendants for many hundreds of years.
Today, I will remember that God’s promises are far-reaching and long-lasting. I will remember that my prayers can have an impact not only on my own life and on my immediate family but on many generations of my descendants.