Nephi picks up the narration again and tells how Lehi blesses all his children and their families before he dies. His main counsel is the same as it has been from the beginning of their journey:
Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (4)
They would be blessed to prosper and have peace in times of righteousness and would be caught up in wars, famines, and bondage when they didn’t follow God.
If we choose God, He will choose us.
After Lehi dies, “Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me [Nephi] because of the admonitions of the Lord.” (13)
Nephi is constrained by the Spirit to speak to them. Many of his words are recorded. His whole purpose for the small plates is to uplift, inspire, and testify of Christ, “for my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.” (15)
This is a beautiful roadmap to follow when we study scripture.
Gaining personal revelation
Delight in God’s word.
Delight means to have strong feelings of happiness, great pleasure or satisfaction; a high degree of gratification or joy.
- Do I feel these emotions when I study the scriptures?
- Do I look forward to spending time with God’s words?
- Do they bring me joy and empower me?
Ponder means to think about or consider carefully; to weigh in the mind; appraise; to think about or reflect upon; to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply. This implies action—a pushing beyond just reading words. I read many novels, but I rarely ponder the words in those. The scriptures are different. They are inspired by God, and each word can open up a whole new world of meaning.
Reading can make you feel good. Pondering what you read can make you a different person.
Writing down your thoughts as you delight and ponder on the scriptures can bring so much power to your life. It has mine. When I record my thoughts, questions, definitions of words, and brainstorming, God seems to guide my thoughts and help me see and understand what I didn’t before writing.
When I take time to read back through my scripture journal (which is what I’ve done to construct these posts), I see what God is telling me to do, what He’s telling me to work on. I also see in hindsight how He has helped me grow and become more than I was.
Recording our thoughts is a powerful step in understanding ourselves, which helps us communicate with God better.
Profit from scripture.
A monetary profit is financial gain, through investing, after all costs and expenses are paid. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary). A spiritual profit is what is gained after investing time and heart into our relationship with God. When we pray, repent, study the scriptures in the ways listed here, we gain an advantage or benefit from the time spent—a profit. This gain helps us to make better decisions and be enabled through Christ’s Atonement to become who He wants us to be.
Vulnerability leads to Strength
I love the rest of this chapter, sometimes referred to as Nephi’s Psalm. He admits to having seen great and marvelous works from God, yet he reveals his vulnerability by calling himself a “wretched man” (17) and confessing:
I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”2 Nephi 4:18
All of us are tempted by sin and weaknesses of some kind. There isn’t a scale that makes some sins better or worse than others, yet we naturally tend to judge others as better or worse than us by what we perceive as their sins, compared to ours.
But all sin is wretched, be it small or massive.
All sin keeps us out of God’s presence. A wretched state.
I believe the closer we come to God, and the deeper our relationship with Him becomes, we begin to see our sins for what they really are—obstacles that block us from Him. That knowledge makes us feel as Nephi…that we are wretched. But in a good way that leads us to turn to Christ to be changed.
In contrast, when our hearts are hard and we aren’t close to God, we justify sin—minimize it or compare our sins to others and feel we aren’t so bad. There are people doing worse sins. And thus, we have no desire to change.
Humility takes off our blinders and makes us strong.
A weak man doesn’t recognize his weaknesses; therefore, he can’t strengthen or fortify those vulnerable spots. He will be mortally or spiritually wounded by the Adversary’s darts in battle because of this blindness.
A strong soldier recognizes where he is weak—and exclaims how wretched those weak spots are—and then does something to fortify himself (put on the whole armor of God). He turns to God to make his weaknesses strengths. Only God can protect us with spiritual armor to withstand all that Satan unleashes upon us.
Nephi sounds despairing at first when he talks about how far he falls short of God’s glory, but he doesn’t wallow. He says a vital word—Nevertheless.
And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”2 Nephi 4:19
When life is icky, do we focus on all the bad and forget the hope we have in Christ? If so, let us work harder to say, “Nevertheless,” and remember and be thankful for all the blessings we still have (and will have in the next life).
After saying nevertheless, let us do all we can to come unto Christ. Prayer is the best tool we have in our arsenal to discover our weaknesses and gain power from on high to strengthen them. But many times we get tired at night or are in a rush to start our days in the morning, and we hurry through our prayers, not truly thinking or pondering in the moment. Not truly communicating with our God.
- What can I do to make prayer a higher priority in my life?
- What can I do to prepare for conversing with my Maker?
Nephi didn’t just pray, he went beyond that.
And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him.”2 Nephi 4:24
- What makes prayer mighty? Mighty means showing great strength or power.
- What can help my prayers acquire power or strength?
- Do I need to sacrifice more to achieve more mightiness in prayer?
- Do I need to consecrate myself more to the task, preparing in some way I’m not doing right now?
Prayer should be a privilege, not a duty.
It is the means God has given us to commune with Him. Though we are cut off from His presence in this life and have had a veil of forgetfulness placed upon our minds, prayer can close the distance and thin that veil.
To me, mighty prayer does these things:
- Seeks answers to questions or mysteries
- Leads to repentance and forgiveness
- Pushes further than natural inclinations—we don’t end early, but ask/thank God for MORE
- Worries and sympathizes for others, even our enemies
- Carries us away in Spirit to behold “great things.” (25)
Nephi’s “nevertheless” leads him to rejoice and lift up his heart.
O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? / And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?”2 Nephi 4:26-27
It’s interesting to note what these verses tell us about sin, and how it affects us, physically and spiritually:
- Makes our heart weep
- Brings sorrow—a valley of sorrow we can’t climb out of
- Makes our flesh waste away
- Promotes laziness—our strength slackens
- Gives place in our heart to Satan
- Destroys peace
- Afflicts the soul
- Makes us angry
Nephi doesn’t want to wallow in those negative effects. He believes Christ’s promises and holds tight to them.
Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”2 Nephi 4:28
What does it mean for my soul to awake?
Soul is body and spirit, so both entities would not be sleeping. A sleeping body is sluggish. A sleeping spirit is casual and not pushing forward. To have my soul awake means I would be physically energized and spiritually healthy (repentant and humble).
When our hearts rejoice, the Adversary cannot get a place in our heart.
It is when we wallow in pity, depression, and other negative feelings that the devil gains access to our hearts and can aggravate any negative feelings there.
I love how Nephi asks God for help in being more holy:
Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? / May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (31-32)2 Nephi 4:31-32
That is a good attitude—to shake at the appearance of sin. Think of how much heartache and sorrow we could avoid if we all asked for that blessing.
He goes on to say: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh, for cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh…” (34)
He bears his testimony that he knows “God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss.” (35)
Nephi’s mighty prayers did these things. Maybe we can incorporate them into our own daily routines to take our prayers up a notch to become mighty:
- Remember all God has done for me
- Don’t be angry because of my sins and weaknesses
- Awaken to the many blessings God has given me
- Be cheerful and positive
- Praise God for His mercy and goodness. Be grateful.
- Love myself; don’t wallow in despair at all I do wrong, but say Neverthelesss, and remember the hope I have through the Savior
- Repent. Ask for redemption through Christ.
- Seek deliverance – a change of heart, so the appearance of sin makes me shake.
- Broken heart, contrite spirit (be repentant, teachable)
- Trust in God that He will give bounteously, if I ask not amiss
Nephi trusted in God, which gave him power over the adversary. When things go wrong and we are in the wilderness of afflictions, or encompassed about by deep waters, turn to the Lord in mighty prayer and trust that He will turn all bad into good for your sake.
2 Nephi 4 (Book of Mormon)