Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nephi Prayed

A conversation with a friend this week taught me a lessons about Nephi and his brothers and how their story applies to me. Nephi and his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, had been commanded by the Lord through His prophet to obtain the brass plates (the scriptures) from a wicked man named Laban who was rich and powerful. After risking their lives and failing their quest twice, Laman and Lemuel became angry with Nephi for wanting to try again and began to beat him up. An angel from God came and commanded them to stop the beating and testified to them that the Lord's promise was still in affect that they would be able to obtain the brass plates. The record then states:

"And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us (1 Nephi 3:31)?"

Though Laman and Lemuel doubted, Nephi's response was quite different:

"And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands (1 Nephi 4:1)?"

I can understand where Laman and Lemuel were coming from and I must admit that had I been in their shoes I would have likely said the same thing that they said. I say this because there are many times when the Lord has given me a promise and I have doubted that it would actually happen because of past experiences. For example, I sometimes have doubts that certain aspects of my character can actually be changed, having tried but failed 50 or ten thoughsand times.

But I have to ask myself, as my friend asked me, "What made the difference between Nephi and His brothers?"

Nephi prayed. He truly prayed to His Heavenly Father. Nephi recorded his first prayer when he truly humbled himself before God and put his trust in Him:

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers (1 Nephi 2:16)."

Nephi, like me, sometimes struggled with change, but I admire his faith and trust in the Lord when change did not happen as expected. At one of these times Nephi recorded:

"Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted (2 Nephi 4:17 - 19)."

When I struggle with doubt, wondering if the future can really be different than my past experience, I can pray like Nephi. I can humble myself before the Lord and put my trust in Him and remember the testimonies of His servants. I'll finish this post with a quote by our prophet:
"The passage of time has not altered the capacity of the Redeemer to change men’s lives—our lives and the lives of those with whom we labor. As He said to the dead Lazarus, so He says today: “Come forth.” Come forth from the despair of doubt. Come forth from the sorrow of sin. Come forth from the death of disbelief. Come forth to a newness of life. Come forth."

-Thomas S. Monson, “To the Rescue,” Ensign, May 2001, 48

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Pure In Heart

The Savior said "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). I have been privileged to have known several people who are pure in heart; I can see light shining from their eyes and countenances; I feel closer to God when I am around them. And they see God everywhere. They see God's influence in their lives everywhere they look. They look for the good in everything and give their gratitude to God. They are quick to point out the tiniest blessings, which in turn fuels their happiness and optimism. They can see God's merciful hand in the midst of adversity. They see the Savior in others and try to treat them accordingly (see Matthew 25:40).

I am grateful to have known these special people, whose hearts have been cleansed and purified by the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that this blessing promised by Jesus is real and can be obtained by all through His mercy.

Friday, January 2, 2009

To Know God

This morning as I was studying my scriptures I came across the story of the repentance of King Lamoni’s father (see Alma 22). This man had learned the gospel from missionaries and wanted to have its promised blessings for himself. I was touched by the words of His first prayer when he said “I will give away all of my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18).

I pondered his words of coming to know God through repentance. It makes sense because the best way to know someone is to be like them, to walk the path they walk. The end goal of repentance is for us to be changed to be and act more like God—to be loving, merciful, patient, wise, happy, peaceful, and so on. I found various scriptures which teach that a key to truly knowing God is repentance and becoming more like Him.

When King Benjamin’s people repented they personally knew who God was because they had experienced His attributes of goodness, power, wisdom, patience, longsuffering, and love (see Mosiah 4:6, 11).

When Alma taught his son the importance of the scriptures to help others repent: “These records and their words brought them unto repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer” (Alma 37:9).

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3).

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

“Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

While pondering these scriptures, I thought on my own experiences with repentance. As the Lord has helped me to change I have come to know Him better. The happiest times of my life have been when I have repented. The times when the Lord has helped me to overcome sins and weaknesses impossible on my own, are the times when I couldn’t stop smiling. There have been special times when I have been able to stand transparent before the Lord, having joy from knowing that He finds my life acceptable. Thinking back on those experiences gives me renewed desire to further repent of my sins.

Through the experiences I have had with repentance, the testimony of Elder Richard G. Scott has become my own: “I cannot comprehend [my Savior’s] power, his majesty, his perfections. But I do understand something of his love, his compassion, his mercy. There is no burden he cannot lift. There is no heart he cannot purify and fill with joy. There is no life he cannot cleanse and restore when one is obedient to his teachings” (Richard G. Scott, “True Friends That Lift,” Ensign, Nov 1988, 76).

I look forward to the day prophesied of in Jeremiah 31:34, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

I know that these miracles—the miracle of forgiveness and the miracle of knowing the Lord—can happen to all of us because of Jesus Christ.