As sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, He wants us to learn of Him. He desires that we understand what we need to do to become like Him and return to Him to obtain a fulness of joy. As we study
As we studied 1 Nephi 1-7 these past weeks in Come Follow Me, there are many different lessons that we learn about gaining and growing our testimonies. First, is the approach that Lehi takes to being called and chosen to lead his family into the wilderness. Second, we ought to look at the responses that each of his children has to this call. Third, would be what builds up to when Nephi proclaims that he “will go and do.” And fourth, Nephi’s effort to lead his brothers to get the Brass Plates from Laban. These, among other examples within these first few chapters of the Book of Mormon, have a lot to teach us about spiritual growth.
Nephi’s experience shows us three different processes that they attempted to obtain the word of God. As we dive into his process and the trials that he went through, we can learn a bit more about the work that we ought to put in to develop our ability to obtaining God’s word and will for us.
The Word of God Does Not Come By Reason
When I first was shown this process of obtaining the word of God, or personal revelation, it was taught to me that the wicked or disobedient could not attain the word. As I still believe this to be a sound principle, I think that there is another principle that can be learned from this section.
As Nephi and his brothers gather without the walls of the city of Jerusalem, they conversed as to how they would go forward to getting the Plates of Brass from Laban. They resorted to a common practice of the time, casting lots. It seems that they felt that by having one of them reason with Laban, they would be able to walk out with the plates and head back to their parents in the wilderness.
The lot fell upon Laman, which seems like the appropriate individual to go forth at the time since he was the eldest. He was also the most rebellious and worldly. Laman then approached Laban within his home to see if he would willingly give up the record.
1 Nephi 3:11 — Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house.
As expected, this did not work. Not only did Laman not succeed in reasoning with Laban to obtain the plates, but they were thrust out and threatened.
1 Nephi 3:13 -— And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee.
The brothers then regrouped and discussed an alternate plan.
The Word of God is Bought Without Money or Price
As much as ideas throughout the centuries have tried to convince us that we can purchase salvation or that some sort of knowledge comes through a monetary exchange, it just is not so. We see that play out as another example within the experience of these four brothers. As they pursue the next strategy, they attempt to buy the plates with the wealth that their family had left behind when they went on their journey.
Again, Nephi resorts to his own knowledge when it comes to attempting to obtain the word of God. He is undoubtedly mindful of the Lord’s mercy and ability to provide a way, but he is working hard to figure out what that way is. After some persuading, he convinced his brothers to get their riches and approach Laban again.
1 Nephi 3:16 — Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord.
22 — And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things.
23 — And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.
For the second time on this trip, they met failure. This time it was increasingly difficult as they faced a real threat for their lives at the hands of Laban and his men. They lost their wealth, and they fled and hid in a cavity of the rock. They were not able to purchase the word of God with worldly wealth. Likewise, we must work to obtain revelation, but it does not come by opening up our pocketbooks.
Yes, there are promises made to those who bring forth their tithes and offerings, but those are to be done in a manner that is to serve and build up the kingdom not to purchase visions, knowledge, dreams, revelations, or some fortune. We must pursue a different way if we want to learn how to learn from God. Nephi will show us this way.
An Aside on Nephi’s Valiance
I want to digress for a moment to look at the perseverance and valiance of Nephi as he is working out the task that was asked by the Lord through his father, whom he recognized as a prophet of God. As we step aside from our story, which plays as a great allegory of our pursuit of truth, I want to give us a foundation of what brought Nephi to this point.
When Lehi asked Nephi and the rest of his family to leave the comforts of their home and wander out into a remote wilderness to an unknown “promised land,” he did not follow blindly. I cannot imagine that this would have been an easy thing for any young man. His older brothers murmured about this request. I am sure that Nephi had his own internal battle. We get a glimpse of this early in his writings.
Nephi turned to the Lord to be comforted.
After having been sufficiently humble and strengthened, Nephi was ready to put the scripture stories of his youth to the test. He relied on what he had been taught in his youth. He knew that if Moses could be delivered from Egypt, then he and his brothers could be delivered from Laban and fulfill the commandments of the Lord.
Not only did Nephi gain a witness of the power of God and his father’s inspired leadership, but he developed into a qualified leader himself. It did not take long for Nephi to take on the role of leader among his brothers. He had to stand up to them to get them to obey. His leadership even caused his brothers to get upset and begin to beat him.
After the angel appeared and validated Nephi’s stance, he became more confident. He then expressed to his brothers that no matter how powerful Laban might be, the Lord would deliver them. His trust in the Lord, coupled with his growth and maturity, gave him the strength and confidence to stand up to his brothers and then go forth to fulfill the command of the Lord.
Sterling Sill once wrote about being a leader in tune with the Master.
“If we are going to call ourselves servants of the Master, we ought to act like servants of the Master. We should remember who we are, that we are the children of God. If we are ever going to be like God, why should we put off getting started to act that way? Certainly God is not weak nor poor nor sinful nor incapable. If we want to be like him, we had better get started…God is an all-knowing, all powerful, glorified personage. He is literally the father of our spirits, and according to the laws of heredity we may become like our Father. In possibility we are already like him. We posses every potential power. Therefore we should act the part. Why should we continually think of weakness and failure? We should stop apologizing, criticizing, procrastinating and offering excuses. We should stop forcing someone to remind us of our duty as though we were incompetents or cripples or children. We should cease our falseness and sins. If we keep acting like the devil, that is what we will become” (Sterling W. Sill, Leadership, p 36).
Be Led By The Spirit and Go Forth
The keys of these verses of scripture open up to us the progress of the young Nephi and what he had become. He had developed himself into a great leader, but more importantly, he was learning what it meant to listen to and follow the Spirit of the Lord. After the two prior attempts that had failed, Nephi knew that there had to be a better way.
Nephi trusted in the Lord. He then went throughout the city of Jerusalem with his mind open and centered upon the Lord. He was seeking the guidance and revelation of the Lord throughout his journey to obtain the plates. In addition to being impressed by the Spirit he states that he went forth.
It is not enough for us to simply be open to promptings of the Spirit, but we must be willing to do whatever we are prompted to do. Sometimes this will require us to do simple things like visiting a neighbor or call a friend. Other times we may have to do something that requires more effort. Likely, we will not have to go through the trying test that Nephi had to, but we may be asked to endure other trials or pursue other challenges. How we respond to the direction of the Spirit will result in what we become.
As Nephi learned to lead his brothers, he had to go through the work of trial and error. There were failures in his pursuit of obtaining to receive the word of God. We will not always be perfect in our pursuit to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may get a flat tire on our way to the temple and not make it before it closes. We may miss our ministering assignments. We may feel like we didn’t get anything out of our family scripture study because of the bickering and struggle. No matter how short we may feel that we come, it is by persistently pursuing the commandments of our God that we learn to go forth.
As we strive to keep the commandments and continually repent, we become better. We will learn to become more susceptible to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. We will recognize those impressions better. We will be able to come before our own Zorams and ask for the plates. We will obtain the word of God in our lives. It requires work. There are no shortcuts in our exaltation.
If we are to become as the Master, then we must be capable of doing what He did. We will not be able to at first, but as we continue, then we will become more adept. Perfection will not come in the short term, but in the long run, we will become more perfect. Through continually being led by the Spirit, even if we are not sure the exact course, we will come to the ultimate destination, and that is to sit down in the kingdom of God.