How Is It That He Cannot Instruct Me? – 1 Nephi 17:50-51

50 And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.
51 And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?
(1 Nephi 17:50-51)

When Nephi received a difficult assignment from the Lord, he moved forward with confidence, believing that the Lord would help him fulfill the assignment. When his brothers questioned his optimism and suggested that he was foolish, he reminded them of the miracles God had performed previously, both as recorded in the scriptures and as they had experienced in their own lives. The lesson: if God has miraculously helped others in the past and has even miraculously helped us, then it is not foolish for me to believe that He can help me today.

Unbelief leads to inaction. In the passage above, Nephi responds to his brothers’ unwillingness to work on the ship which will carry them to the promised land. Why wouldn’t they work? Because “they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:18).

Nephi, on the other hand, had started working just as soon as he received the commandment. His first question was where he could go to find ore to make tools. He skipped the step of wondering whether the task was possible, and jumped straight into thinking about how to do the work (1 Nephi 17:8-10).

Nephi based his faith on his spiritual knowledge. He knew that God had performed many miracles, as recorded in the scriptures. He also knew that God had performed many miracles in his own life. Those past events served as his evidence that God could perform a miracle again: “If the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?”

Today, I will remember that God is capable of performing miracles in my life. I will choose to believe and will take action based on that belief, knowing that God has helped me in the past, so He will also help me in the future.

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Surely These Things Shall Be Made Known unto You – 1 Nephi 15:11

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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How Is It That Ye Have Forgotten? – 1 Nephi 7:10-12

10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
(1 Nephi 7:10-12)

What does it mean to forget? We commonly use the term to refer to an accidental oversight, not an intentional misdeed. When we say, “I forgot to bring my umbrella,” or “I forgot you were coming today,” we are requesting some tolerance for an inconvenience, but the general implication is, “Anyone could have done this. It was an honest mistake.”

Yet there are some things that we are duty-bound not to forget. When a person arrives late to an important meeting or fails to fulfill the terms of a legal contract, “I forgot” is simply not an acceptable excuse. Forgetting may be unintentional, but remembering important things is both achievable and expected.

In the passage above, Nephi reproves his brothers for forgetting three things:

  1. They had seen an angel (1 Nephi 3:29). This brief but impactful experience surely qualifies as unforgettable, and neither Laman nor Lemuel were unaware that it had happened. However, they had failed to grasp the significance of the experience, and even immediately afterward, they had failed to factor the experience appropriately into their decisions. They stopped beating Nephi and Sam, but they continued to complain and to question the feasibility of their mission (1 Nephi 3:31). Now, as they returned from a second successful trip to Jerusalem, they were engaging in the same persecution of their brother which had led to the appearance of the angel the first time.
  2. They had successfully obtained the brass plates. After the angel appeared to them, Nephi had gone into the city, and the Lord had prepared the way for him to fulfill the apparently impossible assignment they had received (1 Nephi 4). Both Laman and Lemuel knew this, but they failed to learn from the experience. They continued to behave as they had before.
  3. The Lord can do anything for us if we have faith in Him. Laman and Lemuel surely understood this principle intellectually. Nephi reminded them of it immediately after their experience with the angel (1 Nephi 4:1-3). Furthermore, their own direct experience with the angel and with obtaining the brass plates could have inspired them to exercise faith in similar situations in the future. But they had forgotten the principle and were therefore failing to exercise faith in Him.

Today, I will remember the important spiritual experiences in my life. I will remember the lessons I have learned from those experiences and will ponder what I can do to incorporate those lessons into my future decisions.

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This Redeemer of the World – 1 Nephi 10:5-6

5 And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.
6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
(1 Nephi 10:5-6)

The first step in getting help is recognizing that you need it. You’ll never call the doctor until you recognize you’re sick. Likewise, you won’t reach out to God for spiritual healing until, like Enos, your soul begins to “hunger,” or like King Benjamin’s people, you become aware of your own spiritual deficiencies (Enos 1:3-4, Mosiah 4:2).

After studying the words of the prophets on the brass plates, Lehi taught his sons about the Savior. To help them understand why a Savior was necessary, he used a phrase which later Book of Mormon prophets would use repeatedly. He told them that all people are “in a lost and in a fallen state” until we learn to rely on our Redeemer. (See 2 Nephi 25:17, Mosiah 16:4, Alma 12:22, Alma 42:6.)

  • To be lost implies that we are not where we should be, and that we don’t know how to get there
  • To be fallen implies that we have lost our position of honor and have been damaged by our actions.
  • The Savior said that He came to “save that which is lost” (Matthew 18:11). He also reminded the people that, if one of their sheep were to fall into a pit, they would rescue it, adding “How much then is a man better than a sheep?” (Matthew 12:11-12) He is willing and able to rescue us and will do so as soon as we recognize our need to be rescued and ask for help.
  • Today, I will remember that when I lose my way or fall down, I have a Redeemer whom I can rely on to find me and to lift me up. I will recognize my need for His help and will be grateful that His redeeming power is always available to me.
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    Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord – 1 Nephi 10:8

    8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
    (1 Nephi 10:8)

    After studying the words of prophets contained on the brass plates, Lehi taught his children about the Savior. He explained that a prophet (John the Baptist) would prepare the way for the Savior’s ministry, just as Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 40:3).

    Even though this prophecy is specifically about John the Baptist, it has relevance for each of us. In a revelation received by Joseph Smith in Fayette, New York, the Lord commanded members of the Church to preach this message to the world: “Repent, repent, and prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (D&C 33:10).

    We can prepare the way of the Lord by taking actions which help our hearts and minds become receptive to His Spirit. This includes repentance and participation in the ordinances of the gospel. We also prepare the way for ourselves and others by acting on revelation we receive.

    Today, I will prepare the way of the Lord by opening my mind and heart, being willing to accept the messages God wants to send me, and then acting on the messages I receive from Him.

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    Lessons from Sermons to Hostile Audiences

    During July, I studied sermons which were delivered under less favorable circumstances. In all of these cases, some people in the audience did respond favorably to the message, but the majority of people were not willing to listen. And in every case, the prophets knew that they were in danger because of the hostility to their message. Here is a list of the sermons I studied:

    1. Abinadi’s sermon to the priests of King Noah
    2. Alma and Amulek’s sermon in the city of Ammonihah
    3. Alma and Amulek’s sermon to the Zoramites
    4. Nephi’s sermon from his tower
    5. Samuel the Lamanite’s sermon to the Nephites in Zarahemla

    Here are some of the lessons I learned from these five sermons:

    1. Don’t be self-righteous.

    Abinadi pointed out the hypocrisy of the priests of King Noah, who preached the commandments of God but didn’t keep them. Alma taught the people of Ammonihah that, as soon as the Lamanites were able to transcend the traditions of their fathers, God was eager to bless them. Alma’s audience, on the other hand, faced a bigger barrier: They had willfully rebelled against God. Samuel the Lamanite pointed out that the Lamanites had a track record of being steady when they were converted, whereas the Nephites, who had been blessed so abundantly, were regularly turning their hearts away from God. Alma and Amulek found that the wealthy Zoramites would not listen to them, but the poor were humbled because of their afflictions and were in a preparation to receive the word.

    2. Don’t harden your heart.

    As Alma explained to Zeezrom in Ammonihah, God shares spiritual knowledge with people who choose not to harden their hearts. Amulek pointed out that, when we intentionally do wrong, our perception of reality is impaired. Abinadi told the priests of King Noah that they had not applied their hearts to understanding. He also quoted the Ten Commandments to them, because those commandments were not written in their hearts. Samuel told the Nephites that they were tuning out true messages which they found distasteful and gravitating to false and flattering messages with no value. He told them that God’s chastening was evidence of His love for them.

    3. Think about the future consequences of your current actions.

    Samuel warned the Nephites that, if they didn’t repent, they would face desolation, destruction, and poverty. When that happened, they would cry for deliverance, but it would be too late. The time to repent is now, before the consequences occur. Nephi tried to sensitize his audience to the direction their decisions were leading them, by asking questions like, “Why will ye die?

    4. God’s mercy is available to those who seek it.

    Alma explained in Ammonihah that we can enter God’s rest by humbling ourselves and repenting. He taught them that God would be merciful to all who call on His name. Abinadi emphasized to the priests of King Noah that the gospel isn’t just about keeping the commandments; it’s also about the grace that we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ when we repent. If we seek His help, God can help us overcome the negative propensities associated with our mortal, physical bodies.

    Other lessons

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    Samuel the Lamanite’s Sermon – Helaman 13-15

    samuel-the-lamanite-39661-wallpaper

    Setting

    A prophet named Samuel traveled to the city of Zarahemla and preached to the people for many days. He was a Lamanite, and the inhabitants of the city were Nephites. They rejected his message and kicked him out of the city. He was about to return home when the Lord commanded him to go back. He climbed onto the wall of the city to deliver this sermon.

    Purpose

    Samuel’s objective was to help the people see where their decisions were leading. The coming of the Savior was imminent, and their decisions were not preparing them for that event.

    Outline

    1. You will not find the happiness you seek with the choices you are making (Helaman 13).
      1. “The sword of justice hangeth over this people.” Within 400 years, you will be destroyed unless you repent (Helaman 13:5-11).
      2. Your city is only spared because of the righteous among you (Helaman 13:12-16).
      3. Your treasures are cursed because you have set your hearts upon them (Helaman 13:17-23).
      4. You reject true prophets and uphold false ones. “How long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by blind guides?” (Helaman 13:24-29)
      5. Your riches will become “slippery” (Helaman 13:30-37).
      6. You can’t find happiness in iniquity. I pray that you will repent before it is too late (Helaman 13:38-39).
    2. The signs of Jesus’s birth and death (Helaman 14).
      1. In five years, the Son of God will come. It will be light all night. There will be a new star. “Ye shall all be amazed, and wonder” (Helaman 14:1-8).
      2. The Lord commanded me to deliver this message. You rejected me because I am a Lamanite and because the message was not easy to hear (Helaman 14:9-13).
      3. Christ’s death is necessary for our resurrection and for our redemption (Helaman 14:14-19).
      4. When He dies, there will be darkness for three days. There will also be natural disasters (Helaman 14:20-27).
      5. The purpose of these signs is to help people believe so that they can be saved (Helaman 14:28-29).
      6. “Ye are free…[to] choose life or death” (Helaman 14:30-31).
    3. God will be merciful to the Lamanites, but not to you if you don’t repent (Helaman 15).
      1. You will suffer if you don’t repent (Helaman 15:1-3).
      2. God will preserve the Lamanites because of their steadiness (Helaman 15:4-13).
      3. God will not destroy the Lamanites, but He will destroy you if you don’t repent (Helaman 5:14-17).

    Outcome

    Many people believed Samuel’s message. Those people went to find Nephi, who baptized them. But many others were angry with Samuel. They tried to hit him with stones and arrows. He was miraculously protected, so they sent soldiers to arrest him. Samuel descended from the wall and returned to his own country.

    My Takeaways

    I see a couple of themes in Samuel’s words. The first is that you can’t keep rebelling against God indefinitely. Eventually a day of reckoning will come, and it is much better to repent now instead of waiting for the crisis.

    The second is that where much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). The Nephites had been given so much more than the Lamanites and had repeatedly proven to be unreliable and ungrateful. The Lamanites, in contrast, had consistently demonstrated that when they were converted, they were dependable. As much as the Nephites hated to hear this from a Lamanite, that is why the Lamanites fared better in the end.

    I will respond to Samuel’s words by repenting proactively and by striving to live up to the blessings I have received.

    Blog Posts about Samuel the Lamanite’s Sermon

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