Monday, November 2, 2009

1 Nephi - Chapter 17

You know, if we view the lives of Laman and Lemuel thus far, they have been more obedient than they have not.  Sure, they have murmured and complained and occasionally rebelled, but mostly, they have done what they were asked.  They have done hard things.  I can't imagine the hardships they faced and endured.  Much of the time, they must have conceded to what was expected of them.  What they never managed to accomplish was to cross over from being driven to being lead.  There is a world of difference.  Sheep that are led, go forth willingly, trustingly, wherever the Shepherd leads them.  They love and trust the Shepherd.  Sheep that are driven, will go all the same places but must be herded by a herder.  They resent and resist and wander off and get into trouble.  Laman and Lemuel never allowed God to lead them but rather required Him to drive them along.  I'll be spending the day examining whether I am being lead or driven in the things I do.  The difference is too critical to overlook.  I think two words will serve as my personal litmus test, frustration and resentment.  If I feel any frustration or resentment, it is clear that I am seeking my own will and not that of the Father.  I may have righteous desires, but they are centered in me or there would be no frustration or resentment.  If my desires are centered in God and His will, my feeling will be more of cheerful submission and peace.  I know this because of experience.  I wonder if Laman and Lemuel ever enjoyed the wonderful feeling of surrender; that sensation of loving and trusting God enough to follow, willingly, joyfully, wherever He leads?  How sad it is that they were forever doing life the hard way.  Like Nephi pointed out, they were like the Israelites who'd been bitten by the poisonous serpents.  They were too busy, sucking out the poison, so to speak, to look to the real source of their salvation.  Being driven is always more stressful than being lead.  Always.

Here's another observation that may be a bit of a stretch for discussion of this particular chapter.  All through the Old Testament times, when Israel was under the school master of the Law of Moses, God seemed willing to Herd the flock.  Under the new covenant, when Jesus fulfilled the Law, it appears that He will only lead.  His message is "Come, follow me." 

Years ago I witnessed the difference.  In our town we had four Stakes at the time of this story.  The four Stakes combined for Boy Scout Round Table.  At one point two of the Stake Young Men Presidents got into a contest to see who could have the best attendance from their respective Scout Leaders.  The competition became rather fierce.  One President chose to be a herder.  He and a Councilor from the Stake Presidency would go to Round Table and immediately take a head count.  Then they would hit the phones, drive to peoples houses, whatever it took to drag the missing brethren to the meeting.  At first, they were leading the competition.  The other Stake Young Men President, quietly attended the meeting, took copious notes and gathered handouts and other materials.  Then he went home and prepared a packet for each missing leader.  Packets in hand, he visited the home of each leader who'd failed to attend.  Upon his arrival he would say something like, "I understand how busy you are, having been in your shoes.  Since you were unable to make it to Round Table I have taken the liberty to bring Round Table to you.  Would you have a few minutes for me to go over the high points?"  He then would quickly review what had been presented and follow up with a sincere expression of appreciation for the wonderful work the brother was doing with the boys in his charge.  There was never a guilt trip, scolding, or any kind of recrimination, just love and gratitude.

That President, did however, suffer a lot of ridicule from the other.  "You've got to quit spoon feeding your men.  Why would they ever show up if you are willing to hand carry it to them?"  The other President would not believe the sheep would follow and was certain they had to be driven.  In the end however, most of his sheep rebelled.  On the other hand the sheep of the President who lead with love, began to see that there was great value in the materials being brought to them by a serving leader and one by one began to show up to see for themselves what Round Table had to offer.  Eventually, that Stake averaged over 90% attendance while the other dropped below 40% on a consistent basis.

Having made that observation I have viewed these early Book of Mormon chapters a little differently.  Quite often in the Church I have observed, brethren especially, driving their flocks.  Perhaps they feel justified, seeing their sheep to be like Laman and Lemuel.  I hope we remember that the Law has been fulfilled and we must no longer be in the the Sheep Herding Business, but rather in the Shepherding Business.  There is a huge difference.


D1Warbler said...

What terrific insight. I have long appreciated the difference between a shepherd and a sheepherder. Four generations of Mother's family ran -- and still run -- sheep near Spring City, Utah. They are western sheepherders.

On the other hand, we visited Jordan, Israel and Oman last fall and observed true shepherd and goatherds there.

Further, one of my favorite non-LDS books is “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by W. Phillip Keller – an author who has been both a shepherd and a sheepherder in his life. (This is a short book and is one I highly recommend reading as it beautifully illuminates the difference between those two occupations. It also thoroughly explains many of the symbols found in the 23rd Psalm.)

As I read your comments today, I thought of the teachers and children in my Primary (my current calling is Primary President in my Ward) and also of families. I have probably been guilty of some "sheepherding lately," as I have tried to fulfill that calling, and also as a parent, and so I will try to remember the example of that stake leader as I go forward.

I also remember a friend who remarked about her current parenting of her young children -- how she had realized she was "driving them" and forcing them to do what she wanted them to do. On thinking seriously about that, she decided she was taking their agency away from them on many occasions, and thus was behaving like Satan rather than like Christ or the Father. She vowed to begin allowing them to make more of their own decisions (in safe areas) in the future.

On another front, like you, I have marveled at the hold the traditional patriarchal system seemed to have on Laman and Lemuel that, regardless of their feelings to the contrary, they had enough respect for their parents to at least come along on the journey. They were obviously either adults or near to being adults, so one would think it would have been fairly easy for them to just stay back in Jerusalem. (Because of Lehi's wealth, they definitely could have survived there quite nicely – at least until it was offered to Laban!) Instead, they chose to come along, and continued to do so.

We observed that kind of fealty to parents when we were in the Middle East. Sons and daughters still honor and respect their parents for the most part, even though some of that is changing as our western values creep into their cultures. I spoke to a young man at Petra who was beginning to struggle with that dichotomy, especially about having an arranged marriage, but even he was still planning to live as a married man in his Father’s home; and we saw many examples of such multi-generational homes in all three of the countries we visited. (In fact, one of our first observations in Jordan was the rebar sticking up from the roofs of many of the houses. When we inquired about it, we were told that the rebar was there so another story could easily be added to the home to accommodate a newly married son and his wife.)

Another observation from this Chapter is – like the 40 year journey of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, Lehi’s journey with his family probably took much longer than it needed to because of the continual disobedience of some of the members of the family. Spending eight years in the desert could not have been a lot of fun, but some people seem to be slow learners. That they eventually made it to Bountiful where they could build the ship is a testament to their ability to withstand adversity, but not necessarily to their ability to follow the Lord. It makes me wonder how many times I have spent much longer experiencing one kind of adversity or another than I really needed to!

D1Warbler said...

One final observation about this chapter -- I salute this family for their willingness to climb aboard that ship and set sail for the Promised Land. As I have both visited several of the locations in Oman which LDS scholars think may be the Land of Bountiful and have also spent nearly a month aboard a tall ship in all kinds of weather, I can tell you from personal experience that it would have been difficult even for the righteous to have willingly left that beautiful area, not to mention getting on that ship and knowing they were sailing into completely virgin territory for anyone but the Lord. Because of this, I take my hats off to all of them – even the complaining ones!

Candleman said...

Well, now, D1Warbler, you make me wonder if my current unemployment is lasting longer than it needs to. Now I have two subjects to examine today.

D1Warbler said...

Ditto, here!

I remember hearing about something that happened to Wilford Woodruff and his brother when they were in their twenties. It seems that they rejected a prompting to -- I believe -- move to Rhode Island, and, instead moved somewhere else. They later discovered after joining the Church that had they followed that prompting, they would have been introduced to the gospel two years earlier than they eventually were. As I recall, in so doing they didn't necessarily lengthen an adversity, but they didn't gain a possible blessing, either.

Hopefully when we linger unnecessarily in an adversity or miss a proffered blessing because of our sometimes "dratted" agency, we at least learn something we might not have learned otherwise!

Love Life and Learning said...

Appreciate the discussion taking place. There are so many directions you have leaned that I have never even considered before. Interesting!