Friday, May 26, 2017 3 comments

What we can learn from Nephi’s striving

Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. (1 Nephi 17:15)

This verse caught my eye recently. It comes a few verses after Nephi gets the command to build a ship. The word that caught my attention was “strive.”

“Strive” means much much more than “try”; it means “fight or contend.”

So Nephi is saying that he fought to keep the commandments. Interestingly, this verse also comes before Nephi’s brothers realize he’s going to start building a ship, so he hasn’t even begun to preach to them about their murmuring yet. They haven’t begun to murmur; they don’t know a ship-building operation is about to begin.

So the question that came to me next was, “Who was Nephi striving against to keep the commandments in this verse?”

I realized he was fighting himself and his own inclinations. At some level Nephi was reluctant to build the ship. Even though he got busy collecting ore and made a bellows, he still had a part of him that hung back and didn’t want to do it. So he had to fight to be obedient first. And because he fought and won that battle, he was prepared to work to convince his brothers.

I find this realization inspiring and comforting. Throughout Nephi’s story you get the idea that he had little to no internal conflict with himself about doing what the Lord asked him to do. (We see it with killing Laban, but elsewhere hardly at all.)

So it helps me to see that Nephi also had to fight internal battles with himself to be obedient, and it helps to see that in this case he even had to fight them after he’d already begun to be obedient.  It shows that along with having to overcome the temptation of disobedience, we also have to overcome the temptation to slack off once we’ve begun a big hard task to keep the Lord’s commandments.   (I can think of a number of times I’ve been stopped in my tracks a ways in from starting something because the temptation to slack off got to me.) 

I think that realizing that tendency can help us overcome it when we’re faced with it. Instead of saying to ourselves, Ugh, I don’t want to do this; this is such a big job, we can say instead, Ah yes, this is the temptation to quit after having gotten a good start.

Have you noticed this problem affecting you? What do you do to overcome it?
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 0 comments

A Nephi's broken bow versus Laman and Lemuel's bows without springs

And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food. . . .
Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, having been afflicted with my brethren because of the loss of my bow, and their bows having lost their springs, it began to be exceedingly difficult, yea, insomuch that we could obtain no food. (1 Nephi 16:18, 21)
I find it rather telling that here Nephi’s brothers are so angry with him for breaking his bow, and yet their bows don’t work either. If Nephi can be blamed for breaking his bow, then Laman and Lemuel are just as blameworthy for allowing their bows to lose spring. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

It is probable that Laman and Lemuel’s bows lost spring first, but they weren’t too worried about this because Nephi’s bow still worked. But as soon as Nephi’s bow broke, there was nothing to fall back on, and became a serious loss with everyone’s lives at stake.

This issue with the bows sort of sounds like it could be a great teaching analogy for moral strength. When a bow loses its spring, the string isn’t tight enough to propel an arrow. Range and penetrating power is substantially decreased. And of course, when a bow breaks outright, an arrow can’t be sent any distance at all.  Some souls are too slack to be as effective as they should. Some other souls are under so much pressure that they break and can’t act at all. Which is worse? It’s hard to say. They are both tragedies in their own way.

The story of the bows could also teach us something about how we deal with stress. If we’re too slack, we don’t do as much as we could. If we’re too rigid, we may break under pressure. We have to have an optimal level of flexibility—just enough strength and steadfastness to be firm, but also enough adaptability to not break.

Personal note: It’s nice to be back. I was in England on vacation for a couple weeks.
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 1 comments

Crown of Thorns

When the soldiers put that crown of thorns on Jesus's head, undoubtedly they intended to mock his testimony of being a king, the Messiah. ("You claim to be a king then? Have a crown. Have a painful one.")

But it seems to me the crown of thorns was also a perfect visual representation of all He knew and felt of our sins and how He had to suffer that in order to save us. And if we let Him save us, then He truly is our King.