Sing with me:
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey. I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.” (Nephi's Courage)
You know the song, you know the scripture. 1 Nephi 3:7 is one of the most well-known and often used scriptures in LDS teachings – partly because we’ve all read 1st Nephi waaaay more than only other part of the Book of Mormon, before we Peter out at 2 Nephi.
The actual scripture is a little different from the song – and less jaunty.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for 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)
I also assume you know what prompted Nephi’s declaration: He had been tasked by his father, Lehi, to return to Jerusalem with his brothers and retrieve the Plates of Brass that were in the possession of angry Laban. As we read in chapter 3, Nephi’s brothers murmured at the command because it “was a hard thing.”
It was then that Nephi announced his intentions and famously declared, “I will go…”
What I have noticed over the years is that we don’t talk much about how Nephi got to that point, and if you look at his backstory, we get some pretty clear indications that he had his own doubts, along with his brethren. Simply, he had to get to a certain point before he became, Courageous Nephi, who would “go and do.”
Chapter 2 makes chapter 3 much more interesting and helpful. Early on, after the family left Jerusalem, the brothers were murmuring and doubting that their father, Lehi, was actually even a prophet. (1 Nephi 2:11-13) They weren’t too excited about abandoning their home, friends and possessions to dwell in a tent.
We also don’t talk much about how Nephi didn’t believe all of it either, and had some negative feelings about it all. How do we know? It’s right there in 1 Nephi 2:16:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he 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.”
Check this part out: “I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father“
It seems that even Nephi needed to have his heart softened before he could believe all the words of the prophet. Nephi? Doubting? Even Nephi. How did he resolve this? He turned to the Lord in prayer and asked for help – and got it.
Personally, I think a hard-hearted Nephi coming to a knowledge of the truthfulness of the prophet and his counsel is a message equally impressive as his declaration, “I will go and do.”
I can relate to that. It makes me admire his choices and fortitude even more.
General Conference is coming up soon. Prophets of God will tell us things the Lord wants us to know – à la Lehi instructing his boys.
Will we have hard hearts and doubts, or will we have soft hearts and faith? Do we need to do some pre-Conference preparation like Nephi did?
Every time a new prophet is called to lead the church, I make it a point to search out a spiritual witness to reassure me that the new prophet was called of God. Sometimes it has been easy: When President Monson was sustained, I was in the room and felt it immediately. When President Nelson was sustained, it didn’t come quite so quickly…
What did I do? First, I dug in and read a zillion talks given by then Elder Nelson. I looked at what he emphasized, I matched it against my knowledge, and looked to see if the things he taught would impact my life and spirituality for good or ill. Finding nothing that caused me the slightest degree of concern and much that enlightened me, I followed Nephi’s example and asked God. Unlike Nephi, Christ didn’t visit me or grant me an awesome vision, but the Holy Ghost eventually affirmed to me that President Nelson, was indeed, called of God.
Why was this important to me? I need to have a baseline belief that the prophet is, indeed, The Prophet, BEFORE he asks me to do something crazy, like go to Jerusalem and retrieve scriptures.
Granted, that is pretty specific, but you know what I mean. Sometimes the Lord asks us, through the prophet, to do some easy stuff that makes total sense. Sometimes we’re asked to do some wacky stuff – especially over the past five years. Lot’s of the changes have been great, lots of them I have felt aren’t so great…
…and THAT is precisely why I need the baseline belief that the Prophet is called of God.
Otherwise, I am operating from a baseline of doubt, rather than of testimony. With a spiritual pre-witness I am more apt to accept, embrace and act on new counsel. Knowing the prophet is called of God – beforehand – helps me spend my effort on moving towards the counsel, instead of arguing about it in my head and heart.
Blind faith? Not at all. When we operate from a baseline of faith and spiritual witness, it is easier to take Nephi’s “I will go and do” approach, rather than the Laman/Lemuel whining and murmuring approach.
President Nelson said it this way:
“You may not always understand every declaration of a living prophet. But when you know a prophet is a prophet, you can approach the Lord in humility and faith and ask for your own witness about whatever His prophet has proclaimed.” (link)
It is no surprise that a constant feature of many General Conference talks is a witness that the current prophet has been called of God. Listen in coming weeks and hear how many times that point is reinforced. Why? Because it is important, and sets the foundation on how we treat the words he speaks.
Pre-Conference Idea: If you don’t know that President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s prophet today, spend some time and find out! Read his talks, study his teachings, and you will see that all of it (if followed) can better our lives. Then pray. “Cry unto the Lord,” like Nephi did, so you can move from the murmuring mentality to the going and doing mentality.
Watching Conference with a soft-heart and acceptance is way more fulfilling than watching it with a hard-heart and skepticism. I should know – I’ve done both.
Have a lovely Sabbath!