Uncertainty and Certainty in the Writings of Nephi

Nephi opens his writings with a statement of conviction:

And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge (1 Nephi 1:3).

He is unafraid to declare what he knows. For example, here is his reason for accepting the assignment to obtain the brass plates:

I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them (1 Nephi 3:7).

But Nephi is also quick to acknowledge what he does not know. For example, in explaining to us why he engraved two sets of plates covering the same historical period, he says:

The Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not (1 Nephi 9:5).

But he immediately follows up with a statement of certainty as an explanation for his obedience:

But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words (1 Nephi 9:6).

When an angel asks Nephi if he understands the condescension of God, he again pairs a statement of certainty with an acknowledgement of his limitations:

I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things (1 Nephi 11:17).

I’m interested in the coexistence of certainty and uncertainty in these passages. Here’s what I’ve observed:

  1. Nephi knows positively that some things are true, and he is willing to declare it.
  2. He acknowledges openly what he does not know.
  3. When he needs to act, he can handle uncertainty because he trusts the Lord:

I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do (1 Nephi 4:6).

Today, I will act on the guidance I receive from the Lord. Even while I recognize the limitations of my own knowledge, I will move forward in faith, believing that God knows all things and that He will prepare a way for me.

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