Lehi’s family was quite dysfunctional. This shows that even if someone comes from a family that isn’t ideal, they can still become something different.
Our life circumstances don’t dictate our future. Our choices do.
Nephi’s brothers hated him and made his life miserable. Because of this sore trial, Nephi “did cry much unto my God, because of the anger of my brethren.” (1)
He did the right thing by praying for deliverance. But God didn’t take away the agency of his brother. Laman and Lemuel are beyond listening to reason. Their hearts are so hard they cannot feel the workings of the Spirit any longer.
But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.”2 Nephi 5:2
Nephi is doing everything right and asking God for help, yet things get worse, not better.
In my life, when I pray and troubles “increase,” do I easily lose faith and let go of the rod of iron? Or do I press on, like Nephi, and not murmur?
It does no good to complain, whining that God isn’t making life better. Look at Joseph who was sold into Egypt. He was sold by his brothers; then unjustly accused and put into prison. He did everything right, yet life seemed poised to drown him.
When troubles increase, so must our faith in Jesus Christ.
Hatred leads to nothing good
Laman and Lemuel’s anger led to these actions:
- unrighteous judgment
- jealousy – “our younger brother thinks to rule over us.” (3)
- justification of sins
- blaming “we have had much trial because of him.” (3)
- violence – “now let us slay him, that we might not be afflicted more because of his words.” (3)
- pride (seeking for power) “it belongs to us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people.” (3)
Anger leads to many other negative traits and emotions, the worst is hardening our hearts so we cannot feel the Spirit or anything that is good.
The Lord tells Nephi to depart into the wilderness with all those who believe as he does. Those who go with him are “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God.” (6) They start over in a new land and start off well.
And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.” (10)
They prosper exceedingly. This shows that although God didn’t take away his brothers’ anger, he blessed Nephi still. In a different way—by warning him to leave his brothers and start a new life with those who were willing to follow God.
This rift between the Lamanites and Nephites lasted almost a millennia…all because of hatred.
Hate is defined by Merriam-Webster as intense hostility and aversion, usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury; extreme dislike or antipathy.
Hate is pervasive (existing in or spreading through every part of something). It gets into our thoughts and forms attitudes and prejudices that pass onto our children and their children (example: the Lamanite hatred of the Nephites, partisan politics, ethnic prejudice).
Hate has no foundation. It is based on fears and perceptions of injury or injustice. Perceptions are usually proved false when studied closely. Fear is the opposite of faith. If we allow hate to fester in us, we close ourselves off to the Spirit of the Lord.
Experiment – Loving your enemy
- Think of someone or something you hate (political is usually an easy one to start with, but it could be someone/thing social, intellectual or religious).
- Study more about that person or thing to try to figure out what their/it background or history is. Research deeply. Go beyond what you already know, and try to go to the source—the person or thing you hate. Try to get all the sides of them/it…not just the superficial headlines and sound bytes we are used to hearing about in social media or news.
- Keep an open mind as you read. Try to learn something new that you didn’t know before.
- Write down some of what you learn, trying to see their/its side of things for just an imaginary moment. Try to understand what made them who they are, or what brought about the thing you hate.
- Do you still hate that person or thing? Hopefully, if you sincerely took time to research more about them/it, you don’t. You might still not agree with them/it, but you have a little more empathy for how they are who they are, or why they believe or act as they do.
I’ve done this with a couple political or social leaders I didn’t like, and after reading more about their lives and families and what drove them to do what they did, I didn’t necessarily agree with them afterward, but I could appreciate them for who they were and what they stood for. Most importantly, I have stopped thinking my way is the only right way (which more Americans need to learn how to do). I have been inspired by people I once couldn’t stand once I learned their story. Knowing their stories have made me a better person.
Don’t make hasty hateful judgments of others.
Everyone has a cool story, because we’re all children of God. Try to learn from as many stories as you can to help your own story be diverse and as fulfilling as it can be, because there are a colorful multitude of characters in it and the best plot twists and redemptive arcs imaginable.
I’ve noticed that ignorant people who are too lazy to study all the angles usually cast the most negative and hate-filled labels on those that don’t think like they do.
The most learned and humble people I’ve met are usually the kindest and most nonjudgmental, too. Humble people, unlike hateful people, are confident in themselves and don’t have to put others down to feel good about themselves. In fact, humble people are anxious to learn from every person they meet, no matter who they are.
Nephi teaches his people to build buildings and work with many materials in their new home.
Constant building seemed to be a theme of Nephi’s life. God asked him to build things…and Nephi set about doing it.
- In the wilderness, he built a bow.
- At the sea, he built a boat.
- In the promised land he builds buildings.
- Ultimately, he builds a temple.
Each construction project grew as Nephi grew.
God wants us to be constantly building in our life. We are building character, beliefs, testimony, faith as we grow line upon line, from a bow to a boat to a temple.
Nephi built the temple out of the finest things he could find in the new land and he crafted it with exceedingly fine workmanship.
Are the lives we are building made of the finest we have to give and our best workmanship? Or are we cutting corners in our construction? Could we be more exact in keeping covenants, so we build a stronger, more holy temple of our lives?
A contrast in opposites
In contrast to the Nephites who are following God and prospering as they build their temple, the Lamanites are cursed for hardening their hearts against God and becoming like flint. Flint was a hard rock used to make tools or weapons. If a heart became as hard as flint…it wasn’t pumping spiritually anymore. They would not hear or feel the Spirit of God in their lives. Total rejection.
Because of their cursing, “they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.” (24)
The righteous Nephites were industrious and making and building beautiful things and living after a manner of happiness.
The Lamanites were slothful and full of mischief and subtlety. Subtlety denotes causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed. It is deceit, trickery, thievery, tearing down a firm foundation.
What kind of person do I want to be? A builder or a sloth?