The first part of this chapter shows the see-saw emotional state Nephi was thrown into because of his family. Maybe some of us can empathize with him. He’d just had an amazing vision where he’d seen the condescension of the Son of God and the future of his posterity, good and bad. He comes from this spiritual high (and low when he saw his people’s eventual fall) and is immediately bombarded by his brothers “disputing one with another.” (2)
Real life is like this.
We have spiritual moments that build our testimony and strengthen our faith. But then we leave our quiet rooms or meetings and return to the real world, where people mock, argue, or try to pull us down from the spiritual mountain we’ve climbed.
Nephi tells them the things of God are hard to understand, “save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they [Laman and Lemuel]being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.” (3)
Do I turn to the Lord as I ought?
When our hearts are hard, we won’t (or CANNOT) understand the things of God.
Nephi is grieved by his brothers’ bad attitude. He “considered that mine afflictions were great above all.” (5)
When trials and affliction come, this is a natural reaction. Overwhelmed, we turn inward and think our suffering is greater than anyone elses. This is when we need to remember what the Savior said to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, when he was weighed down by the misery of life:
Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-8
Though Nephi is disheartened, he doesn’t wallow and have a “Why me?” mentality. The next verse says he “received strength” and set about to help his brothers resolve their dispute.
How can we receive strength when we feel down?
From reading accounts by Moses and Joseph Smith, who also saw visions and talked to heavenly beings, their strength was also depleted afterward. Some of Nephi’s weakness could have been from the actual vision. Moses and Joseph Smith received strength by degrees afterward as their bodies naturally recovered. But beyond physical strength, Nephi received spiritual strength to help his brothers.
Faith in Jesus Christ seems to strengthen not only the spirit, but the body.
In each instance where a historical figure received a heavenly vision, it was due to their strong faith.
Could it be that beyond the spiritual value, that faith actually enhances physical processes and systems that heal and help one recover from a meeting with the other dimension?
Someone with little faith would’ve been incapacitated by a visit with a heavenly being. That’s why God doesn’t always send an angel down to help people. It might be physically debilitating to them, where they might become sick and even die, since faith isn’t present in their metabolism.
How does this apply to me?
If faith in Jesus Christ has such power to heal and enliven the physical body, the more I have, the stronger I will be both physically and spiritually. That doesn’t mean I might not hobble or suffer physical ailments. It means they will affect me less than if I was in a faith-less state.
Spirituality affects our physical body…and vice versa.
If we allow our physical body to become unhealthy or run-down, that can directly affect our faith. God wants us to take care of our bodies not just so that they look good. Truly, I don’t think that matters to Him. He wants us to take care of our bodies so that our spirits can be stronger. Think of how addictions and obesity, for example, can affect one’s self-esteem—our spirit (how we feel, think, and understand the world). If that is depressed, how can our faith be as strong as it needs to be?
Nephi receives strength BEFORE talking to his brothers. He didn’t react when he was weak.
This is a good lesson for us to remember when we deal with other people in life. Receive strength from God before seeking to help others. On an airplane, we are told to put our oxygen mask on first before helping anyone around us in an emergency. If we are weak or lacking oxygen, we will not function as well as we would otherwise. Same goes, spiritually.
Cannot is a Choice
In verse 7, the brothers say something interesting. “We cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken…”
Cannot stands out to me as being a choice. They could’ve said, “We do not understand…” or “We are having a hard time understanding…” But they said, We cannot understand, almost as if they don’t want to understand. They have destroyed all chance of spiritual help because they don’t believe it will come.
Remember the earlier post about desiring, believing and pondering? They want their father’s words to be confusing, because then they can justify not heeding them.
Am I ever like that?
Do I sometimes put myself in a position where I CANNOT understand the words of God, because I don’t want to understand?
Inquire of the Lord
Nephi asks them a simple question. “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” (8)
So simple, yet profound. With his faith, he had no doubt that any question, if humbly sought, would be answered. He’d just returned from having an amazing vision. He’d seen the Son of God and the eventual destruction of his people. Nephi knew his brothers’ simple questions could be answered if they asked.
Again in verse 9, the brothers show their lack of faith in their choice of words. “We have not [inquired]; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”
And with that attitude, He won’t!
This sentence shows an utter lack of faith. They don’t ask God questions (which leads me to believe they weren’t even praying—at least, not meaningful prayer).
Nephi asks them questions to make them ponder:
Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.”1 Nephi 15:11
After asking those thought-provoking questions, Nephi explains the answer to the question they were arguing about—the natural branches of the olive tree and the Gentiles. He shows how they are branches that have been plucked off the tree and removed to a far field, and how the Gentiles in the latter-day will bring back the truth to their posterity, so they can be grafted in once more and “receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine…[and] come unto the true fold of God.” (15)
After Nephi expounds the scriptures and explains them to his brethren, they “were pacified and did humble themselves before the Lord.” Laman and Lemuel experience several times where they get back on the right path—they humble themselves and pray and seem to do what is right. This shows that one can never think they have made it far enough spiritually to stop working.
I can’t just hold to the rod some of the time.
If I take my hands or focus off God for even small moments, I jeopardize my salvation.
When Nephi tells them about the rod of iron, he says:
Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (24)
Holding fast to God’s word keeps us safe.
What does ‘hold fast’ mean?
In the dream, many held to the rod of iron and still were lost after they ate of the fruit. Those were the clingers. Clinging to the word of God is not the same as holding fast.
In Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a holdfast is defined as something to which something else may be firmly secured. Another place had ‘hold fast’ meaning to remain tightly secured. So to hold fast to the word of God means to be tightly secured to it. We embrace it. We secure our testimony and faith to it.
That faith leads us to action. We don’t cling, hoping it will make us happy. We are secure in our faith that it positively WILL make us happy (even if life is hard right now). When trials and temptations come, we don’t falter or give the mockers any heed.
Wherefore, I Nephi, did exhort them to GIVE HEED unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would GIVE HEED to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.” (25)
Merriam-Webster defines Heed as attention, notice. To give heed unto the word of God means we’re holding fast to it. We’re aware and mindful of God’s words. We pay attention, instead of being casual or blasé about it.
- Do I give heed to God’s words today?
- Do I pay attention to what the prophets preach and plead with me to do?
- Do I follow Christ?
We will stand before God someday
I think the reason Nephi pleaded with his brothers to hold fast and give heed was because he understood God’s plan and knew that someday they would stand before Christ to be judged.
…for the day should come that they must be judged of their works; yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation. / Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining unto righteousness…”1 Nephi 15:32-33
He wanted his brothers to be ready and prepared for that day, so it wouldn’t be a terrible experience where they shrank before their Maker.
Are we ready to stand before God today?
We can be if we repent and exercise faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.