Lehi receives yet another revelation for his sons to “again return unto the land of Jerusalem.”
This wasn’t a small trip. It was approximately 200 miles through desolate, rough terrain. Nephi and his brothers had just gone there to retrieve the brass plates, and had just returned.
From a worldly perspective, it’s easy to wonder why God didn’t just tell Lehi to have his sons get Ishmael’s family while they were getting the plates. The traveling back and forth is pretty inefficient use of resources and time. Maybe Laman and Lemuel wouldn’t have been so ticked off if they hadn’t been so frustrated by their father sending them back to Jerusalem so much.
But as I relate this to life, I don’t think God is necessarily in a rush to get us from one point to another in the straightest line possible. In His eyes, where we are on the earth doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters to Him is our growth along our own individual journey. That’s what will get us back to Him.
Nephi and his brothers learned valuable lessons (or not, in Laman and Lemuel’s cases) on their first trip back to Jerusalem. They had to exercise faith–a LOT of it. They saw an angel. They were guided by the Spirit. Nephi grew spiritually and became a stronger leader. He went through the experience of being told to kill Laban, and shrinking from that task. But he learned a valuable lesson about trusting and obeying God no matter what—a lesson he would always remember.
God was preparing and strengthening them for a long journey to a new world. He needed them to experience failure and setbacks in order to learn to listen to the Spirit and become the men and women He needed them to be.
If your life’s journey seems to be zig-zagging more than you like, seeming to go nowhere, maybe ask yourself what lesson God is trying to teach you at this moment.
We aren’t in a race. God’s course isn’t a flat one where time matters. It’s a course of heights. We win when we get to the top—which we can only do through following the Spirit and utilizing the Savior’s atoning power and grace in our lives.
My favorite verse in this chapter is where Nephi speaks to his brothers:
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 7:12
Laman and Lemuel “were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.” They wanted to return to their lives of ease and prosperity. They were sick of roughing it in the wilderness and obeying their father, who they felt was foolish.
Nephi is grieved again at their hard-heartedness. He launches into a speech, asking why they are so “hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds.” He asks why they have forgotten three things: 1) seeing an angel of the Lord, 2) what great things the Lord did for them in delivering them from Laban and helping them get the plates, and 3) that the Lord can do all things according to His will if they exercise faith in Him.
Remember and forget are key words when it comes to revelation.
When we remember all the things the Lord has done for us, our hearts are softened to love Him and obey Him. But when we forget these things—like Laman and Lemuel did—we rebel and want to go our own way.
Remembering helps us return to the Lord. Forgetting leads to rebellion.
Nephi tells them they have a choice. They can return to Jerusalem and perish, or they can follow him down unto the tent of their father and live. It’s a humbling speech, but Laman and Lemuel react in anger (again!), binding Nephi up with the intent to leave him “in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.”
Nice guys, right? Shiver.
Be specific in prayer
Nephi prays for deliverance, asking God to “deliver me from the hands of my brethren.” But he continues with specifics: “yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.”
We all are bound with certain cords in life that limit our freedom and happiness. Some of these things might be addictions, bad habits ingrained in us from our youth (how we talk to others, how we react to emotions, gossiping, yelling, depression). Like Nephi, we should ask to be delivered from these infirmities.
However, don’t leave it at that.
Ask specifically for strength to not only be freed from your bonds, but for the power to burst them to pieces, so they cannot be used to bind you again.
We don’t have the power to do that kind of ‘breaking’ ourselves, no matter how long we try or how strong we are. Only our Savior Jesus Christ, has that power, and we have access to His power through His Atonement.
There are times when we must suffer, like Joseph of Egypt. But I think there are more times when God is waiting for us to be specific in our requests to Him, to show true faith.
Anger leads to the Dark side
Laman and Lemuel are so hard-hearted that even after seeing Nephi break his bonds (a miracle!), their reaction is still anger.
Have you ever noticed how stupid angry people are? I’m not saying that in a mean way. The brain doesn’t work quite right under angry duress. Anger dulls our sensitivities and blocks the brain’s synapses from connecting and making rational decisions or reacting in sane ways. When we are angry, we literally do stupid things…because we become stupid.
Nephi had every right to be angry with his brothers for tying him up and wanting to kill him. But he “did frankly forgive them all that they had done.”
What does it mean to ‘frankly forgive?’
In the dictionary, frankly is defined as: an open, honest, and direct manner. Synonyms are: candidly, directly, plainly, straightforwardly, forthrightly, openly, honestly, without beating about the bush, without mincing one’s words, without prevarication, point-blank.
So to frankly forgive means you honestly and openly forgive them; you stop feeling anger for another person, you cancel a debt they may owe you, you pardon bad behavior without guile. You don’t do those actions to show that you are better than the transgressor. You don’t do it to make them feel better. You have no hidden agenda. You just stop holding grudges because your mind wants to dwell on what’s good.
You put the past behind you and move forward when you frankly forgive.