Sunday, October 18, 2009

1 Nephi - Chapter 2

Metaphorically speaking, everyone wants the promised land.  At least in my experience we all long for a land of freedom, milk and honey, peace and prosperity.  The question is then, are we willing to sacrifice what we now have for something better?  Are we willing to go, with an eye of faith, into a wilderness of discomfort, challenge, education and preparation to receive such a gift?  When we do so, what is the force behind our journey?  Are fleeing something and thus motivated by fear?  Or, are we pursuing something and motivated by faith?  Perhaps a combination of the two.

I felt a strong suspicion today, that though Lehi was warned to leave Jerusalem in order to save their lives, he'd have gladly stayed behind, like Jeremiah, if that had been the desire of God.  I would put Lehi and Nephi in the category of those not fleeing from, but seeking for.  While it is easy to identify with murmuring Laman and Lemuel, they were different than anyone I know, they were willing to murder their father in order to keep their material possessions and the life they had known.  I don't believe I know anyone that seriously rebellious and vile.  As for me, I seek the promised land, but so far my progress has been grossly retarded by my desire to take my possessions with me.  The effort has become such a logistical nightmare and has so seriously retarded my progress that I've begun despair that I might never arrive.  It is clear to me this morning, that I have serious need to lighten my load.

I might have learned this long ago.  My friend Randy invited me a few years ago to accompany him on a six day, 60 mile backpacking trip into and back out of the Grand Canyon.  He insisted that we travel light.  I have done some backpacking and ordinarily on such a trip I'd have taken about 50 pounds of pack.  Randy insisted I cut that weight down to 25 pounds.  We sawed off the handles of toothbrushes, substituted light weight pants for blue jeans, took no change of clothes, whittled here and trimmed there.  He went over the rim with 23 pounds, and I with 24 including 8 pounds of water each.  We never missed a thing we left behind, we ate well and substantially and made wonderful progress everywhere we went.  Occasionally, we'd pass someone laboring along with 50+ pounds on his back and rejoice that we were not so encumbered.  On our third day in someone asked us how we'd come so deep into the Canyon on a day hike.  Our packs were that small.  We were virtually skipping along and as we sipped our water, our loads got lighter as each day progressed.  As we consumed our food our loads got lighter still.

This morning, lesson learned, I've concluded that I need to lighten my load, both spiritually and physically in my pursuit of the promised land.  I've been possessed by my possessions and the hungry heard of camels required to bring it all with me.  The silliest part of all is that even if I managed to drag it all to the gate of my promised land, I'll be required to leave it all outside anyway.  Something tells me that much of the peace I seek will be found in the liberation that lightening my load will bring.  I suspect that if I actually manage to keep up with you guys on this journey we've begun, it will be because I kept this morning's resolve.

By the way, thank you all for joining up with The Book of Mormon Today.  Especially, let me thank Kathy Kidd for publicizing the project in her wonderful Meridian Magazine column.  We ought to take a poll on that.  I suspect there'd only be three or four of us here were it not for Kathy's kindness.  Also, thanks to each, of you who have shared your wisdom and insight in the various and thoughtful comments you've shared.  Perhaps one of you ought to write the posts rather than I and let me make comments.  I read, enjoy and learn from every contribution you make.  And finally, thank you for being there and thus motivating me to actually get up every morning to do this.  I am the beneficiary here and I deeply appreciate the gifts you each bring to this project.


di said...

"And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren"

I had always read this and thought that the Lord was rewarding Nephi, but as I rethink it, I can see that it was a difficult thing the Lord asked of him, to rule his older brothers. There was no glory in it. Glory from whom? There they were in their little band and Nephi was given the responsibility of so much and ridiculed and thwarted at every turn by those he was struggling to serve and support.

Sometimes our assignments are difficult and hard to accomplishment. They might seem to some as prestigious and honorable, but to the one with the responsibility, that prestige means little.

D1Warbler said...

I saw another pattern in this chapter... Nephi being chosen to rule over his older brothers. One of his ancestors was also so burdened -- Joseph of Egypt. As di said above, that burden was difficult for both of them to carry -- especially as each was persecuted nigh unto death by his siblings. Each younger brother was also willing to do whatever was necessary -- in the end -- to help and to try to save those rebellious brothers.

I also agree with Myke that Lehi would probably have been willing to stay and continue to preach to the House of Israel if that had been what the Lord wanted.

I found it interesting, too, at the end of the previous chapter, that after he had seen so much destruction, etc., because of the wickedness of his brethren in Jerusalem, he still rejoiced in the vision the Lord had given him.

First Nephi: 14 And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy apower, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who bcome unto thee that they shall perish!
15 And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.

I think Lehi's reaction to even the difficult the things the Lord showed him in the book tells me that Lehi was a man who was grateful for both the pleasant and unpleasant things of life. That quality -- of being able to see the Lord's hand (and his love) in all things -- even in situations in which people and lands are cursed -- is a remarkable quality, which I think all prophets have and which I think we all should cultivate. After all -- it is easy to be grateful when things are going well for us, but most of the time, it is when things are not going well for us that we learn the things that matter most -- the things of eternity.

ledenzer said...

I was thinking about Nephi today after reading chapter 2. His obedience and ability to choose the right was not blind obedience. I refer to the fact that he mentioned his softened heart. I would therefore make me wonder at the extent of his intitial doubt. He, unlike his brothers, decided to know if the choice given his family was inspired by God. He softened his heart and prayed. From that point on he was not any longer in doubt and so he could obey. It was not blind. I remember a time when my husband wanted to purchase some land. He was so excited and I was hardened against that choice. The idea of the place he felt was meant to be our family's was nothing like the property I wanted to have. I was adamant and stubborn. I remember the day he took me alone to the property and I was steadfast in my opposition. He asked me to climb a small knoll with him and to kneel in prayer. I have an understanding of Nephi in this because from a hardened opinion my heart was softened and I knew that this property was exactly the property the Lord intended for our family. I never again felt the previous doubts and even replustion for the fact it became my promised land and I wish I could have brought it to Utah with me when I had to leave. There is such a blessing given with a softened heart. The Lord is constantly giving us the opportunity to soften and be blessed. Thank you Nephi for your lesson of Faith

D1Warbler said...

To quote the first paragraph of your post for today: “Metaphorically speaking, everyone wants the promised land. At least in my experience we all long for a land of freedom, milk and honey, peace and prosperity. The question is then, are we willing to sacrifice what we now have for something better? Are we willing to go, with an eye of faith, into a wilderness of discomfort, challenge, education and preparation to receive such a gift? When we do so, what is the force behind our journey? Are fleeing something and thus motivated by fear? Or, are we pursuing something and motivated by faith? Perhaps a combination of the two.”

(Or, perhaps, we are simply pushed there by circumstances beyond our control.)

A friend, who knows of our family's current employment situation, sent me the following, which I think applies to this. He said: "It almost seems like in a twinkling of an eye your fortunes have been reversed somewhat. One of the most captivating moments for me in the early portion of Nephi's writing seems centered about the "tent of my father". This noble family, sent into exile by the Lord (it seems at first glance), stripped of their comforts, pushed to residing in tents (the poorest man's abode), then enjoy--and us, vicariously--the greatest of visions, spiritual growth spurts, family bonding, etc (except for Laman and Lemuel)."

This friend, who has also suffered through unemployment and other serious trials in recent years, has, because of these trials, taken his "newly found time" to research and send to various temples the temple ordinances for over 26,000 family names, as well as to serve in the Temple for several hours each week. Although he now lives in a small rented apartment, he says, “Though certainly no comparison to them (Lehi and his family), really, I, still, feel reduced to "a tent" like life now, and yet, in many ways, I've grown spiritually and so many other ways.

As I look back on a time when our family participated in several Mormon Wagon trains across the country and actually chose to “live in a tent – or a wagon” for weeks, I still marvel at how we grew spiritually during those experiences because so many of our daily distractions were stripped away and our life was lived at a pace of two miles per hour rather than sixty, while our world was also contracted from the world at large to a small group of like-minded individuals following a common goal. (Very like Lehi and his family.)

Although I don’t believe that most of us typically desire to “dwell in a tent” – even metaphorically – or are happy to be forced into doing so -- perhaps we need to look at times of such “spareness” with new eyes.

Candleman said...

D1Warbler: I needed that last comment about "tent dwelling" in the worst way. Thank you so much for blessing my life today.

D1Warbler said...

It's interesting how the Lord puts us into each others lives to help and bless each other. I dithered for a while today --knowing I needed to write that last comment -- but not quite sure how to write it -- while thinking all the time that I was dithering about it that someone needed to hear it as much as I needed to write it. I'm so glad I followed the prompting!