It’s so easy to have a narrow perspective. Our brains have finite capacity, and we all have tasks that must be done today. Focusing on the here and now may seem to be imperative.
But provincial thinking can result in distorted perception and poor decisions. Book of Mormon prophets understood the importance of seeing the big picture and interacting with the world on the basis of universal principles, not just reacting to our current circumstances.
Thus, when Lehi and his family abandoned their comfortable life in Jerusalem and began a journey in the wilderness to an uncertain destination, a top priority was the acquisition of a scriptural record. What did this record contain? “The five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents” (1 Nephi 5:11).
When Nephi’s brothers refused to help him build a ship, on the grounds that he didn’t know what he was doing, he responded by reminding them, among other things, of the Creation:
Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it (1 Nephi 17:36).
An awareness of the vastness of God’s power gave Nephi confidence in following Him: “If the Lord has such great power…how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:51).
Nephi particularly appreciated the words of Isaiah, who regularly emphasized the expansive perspective of the Creator. For example, in the following passage, which Nephi’s brother Jacob used in a sermon, Isaiah reproves Israel for being afraid of human beings while ignoring God:
Behold, who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of man, who shall die, and of the son of man, who shall be made like unto grass?
And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth? (2 Nephi 8:12-13, Isaiah 51:12-13).
After King Benjamin’s people received a remission of their sins, he taught them what they must do to retain that remission over time. His instructions included many practical tasks, but it all started with perspective:
Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend (Mosiah 4:9).
When Ammon and his brothers preached the gospel to their enemies, the Lamanites, they used the Creation as a way of establishing God’s identity. After asking King Lamoni if he believed in God, Ammon asked if the king believed that God “created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” (Alma 18:24-32). When the king responded in the affirmative, Ammon “began at the creation of the world,” and taught him the gospel, including “the fall of man” and “the plan of redemption” (Alma 18:36, 39). Ammon’s brother Aaron followed the same pattern when he subsequently taught Lamoni’s father (Alma 22:7-14).
After the destruction which coincided with the death of Jesus Christ, the survivors heard His voice mourning the loss of those who had died. Then, they heard Him introduce Himself with these words:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are (3 Nephi 9:15).
These people would soon see Him, but for now, they could know Him by His works. As Alma had testified to Korihor, the beauty and order of nature and the majesty of the planets which we can observe in the night sky are evidence of a Creator.
Elder M. Russell Ballard has encouraged us to interact with nature as a way of connecting with God:
To truly reverence the Creator, we must appreciate his creations. We need to plan to take time to observe the marvels of nature. Today, we can easily become surrounded by brick buildings and asphalt surfaces that shelter us from real life around us. Plan to share with your family the miracle of buds changing to fragrant blossoms. Take time to sit on a hillside and feel the tranquillity of the evening when the sun casts its last golden glow over the horizon. Take time to smell the roses (“God’s Love for His Children,” General Conference, April 1988).
At the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni, the final author, challenges us to pause and ponder. He doesn’t just ask us to think about our personal challenges, about our families, or even about our cities and nations. He asks us to ponder “how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things” (Moroni 10:3). Breadth of perspective matters in understanding true principles.
Today, I will spend some time in nature. I will remember that God created all things in the heavens and the earth, and I will take some time to appreciate His creations and express gratitude for them.