I started school two weeks ago and am learning many interesting things. Today’s post is in response to an assignment to share with others some of the teachings I am learning in my class about the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. We have been instructed to study the Book of Mormon – not just read it – and to use various study skills to do so. The study skill for this week is to look for principles taught in the assigned scripture block.
Principles are described as “unchanging truths, eternal laws, fundamental beliefs, and they are portable.” In other words, if it is a true principle, it was true yesterday, it is true today, and it will still be true tomorrow; it will also be true in all circumstances. Sometimes the writer points out the principle by using the words “thus we see.” Other times we can find a principle by looking for the moral of the story.
Our scripture block for this week was 1 Nephi chapters 1-5. These chapters contain the story of Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem and traveling into the wilderness; they also contain the story of Lehi sending his four sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates. I cannot share in this post all the principles I found, but I will share a few of them.
The first principle is: Humble and sincere prayer invites personal revelation. This principle comes from 1 Nephi 1:4-18, and the setting is Jerusalem about 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. There were “many prophets” crying repentance and telling the people that Jerusalem would be destroyed if they did not repent. Some of these prophets were Jeremiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Obadiah. Lehi heard the teachings of the prophets and felt great concern; he knelt in humble prayers for his people. He saw a “pillar of fire” that “dwelt upon a rock,” and “he saw and heard much.”
Lehi returned to his home and “cast himself upon his bed” because he was so “overcome with the Spirit” and what he had seen and heard. He received a vision while he was resting, and in the vision he saw “God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels” who were “singing and praising” God. He saw “One” descending from heaven with “luster was above that of the sun at noon-day” and “twelve others” following him with “brightness” like the stars. They gave Lehi a “book” and told him to read it. Lehi read the book and “was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.” He attempted to share the information with the people of Jerusalem, but he was rejected. The people threatened to kill Lehi, and he was forced to take his family into the wilderness.
I found Lehi’s story to be very similar to that of Joseph Smith. Both prophets prayed and received visions of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They were each given a book, and both taught the information to others and prophesied. Lehi’s life was threatened, but Joseph Smith was slain.
The second principle comes from 1 Nephi chapters 3-4 and is: The Lord will provide a way for us to keep His commandments if we exercise faith in Him and keep His commandments. Lehi and his family had traveled into the wilderness for about two weeks when the Lord instructed Lehi to send his four sons – Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi – back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates from a relative named Laban. The Brass Plates contained “the record of the Jews” and Lehi’s genealogy.
Laman and Lemuel murmured and objected most of the time, but Nephi and Sam were obedient and faithful in their duty. Laman went to visit Laban and simply asked for the plates. Laban became “angry,” called Laman a “robber” and threatened to kill him. Then the sons tried to purchase the plates from Laban. They went to their father’s property and obtained “gold and silver, and all manner of riches” and then went to see Laban. Laban saw their property and wanted it. He “thrust” them out of his house and “sent his servants to slay [them]” (3:11-14, 16, 23-27). Laban was given two opportunities to give the plates to Lehi’s sons.
Nephi understood the value of the Brass Plates and how Lehi’s family needed them to (1) “preserve … the language of our fathers” and (2) preserve the words of the holy prophets (3:19-20). He was determined to obtain the Brass Plates and went back into the city after dark, being “led by the Spirit.” As he walked he came upon a man passed out on the street and recognized the drunken man to be Laban. The Spirit told Nephi three times to kill Laban, but Nephi did not want to commit murder. The third time the Spirit told Nephi, “Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (3:10-13). Remembering the Lord’s promise to “prosper” his family if they were obedient to God, Nephi realized that they could not keep the commandments if they did not know them. Since the Brass Plates contained the law of the Lord, Nephi knew he needed to get the plates. Then he understood that the Lord had “delivered Laban into [his] hands for this cause – that [he] might obtain the records according to his commandments” (4:17). Nephi followed the promptings of the Spirit, obtained the Brass Plates, and left the city with Laban’s servant, Zoram.
I have noticed in recent years that the Lord continues to give difficult assignments to me. Six years ago I was inspired to write this blog. I knew absolutely nothing about writing a blog, but I had no doubts about the directions I was given. Two years ago I was content with the amount of food I was growing on my city lot; I had a rhubarb plant, some strawberries, and a large raspberry patch. I thought I was being obedient to the counsel to grow food. Apparently I was not because I was inspired to grow more food. At first I tried to grow food in pots, and the plants did okay. Then I purchased a tent-like greenhouse to grow tomatoes and other plants, and I built two raised gardens to grow vegetables. I took a gardening class to learn more about growing food and gained much knowledge. Now the Lord has instructed me to further my education. Like Nephi, I too know that the Lord “giveth no commandment” without “[preparing] a way” for me to accomplish what He commands. I know that with the Lord’s help, I can accomplish difficult things.
The third principle is: We can help others to become more faithful when we respond to them with patience and love. This principle is found in Chapter 5. Sariah, Lehi’s wife, left her lovely home and her many friends in Jerusalem because people were threatening to kill her husband. She traveled into the wilderness and was living in a tent. Her husband sent her four sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass Plates, a journey that would take at least a month. She had no means of communicating with them and no idea if they were still alive. She became worried about her sons and “complained against [Lehi].” She called him “a visionary man” who led her family from “the land of [their] inheritance”; she expressed her feeling that her sons “were no more” and they would “perish in the wilderness” (verse 2).
I believe the natural response for Lehi would be similar to “Woman, you need to support me, not complain against me!” This was not the way Lehi responded to the concerns of his wife. I can see him taking her in his arms and speaking soothingly to her. He first admitted that he was a visionary man and that he had seen a vision. He bore testimony that he knew they would be destroyed if they had stayed in Jerusalem. He reminded her that he had “obtained a land of promise.” He testified that he knew “the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness” (verses 4-5).
Lehi continued speaking soothing words to Sariah until she was comforted. Both Lehi and Sariah rejoiced when their sons returned with the Brass Plates. Sariah then testified, “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them” (verse 8).
This experience illustrates how a soft answer can help strengthen relationships as well as strengthen faith. I believe that using a soft answer when we respond to our spouses, children, and others can do much to strengthen our families. A soft answer seems to extinguish the fire of anger and frustration. I believe that we can all learn much from this experience of Lehi and Sariah.
When we look for the principle being taught – the moral of the story – as we study the Book of Mormon, we can learn much more than the story. The principles help us to understand the story better, but they also bring much understanding of why the story was included in the scripture in the first place. Looking for principles can deepen our understanding and help us become better disciples of Jesus Christ.