Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lesson 5: Hearken to the Truth, and Give Heed Unto It

1 Nephi 16 - 22.


Chapters 16-18 are all about the journey of Lehi and his family through the wilderness and to the promised land. What aspects of their journey stand out to you?

Here are a few observations:

  • They were commanded to leave.
  • It was a sacrifice—they left their home, riches & comfortable life.
  • It was important to travel as a family.
  • Like the children of Israel, they travelled in the wilderness.
  • They had to backtrack, and there were unexpected twists.
  • They were headed to an unknown, but promised, land.
  • They were guided (by dreams, visions, the Liahona, the spirit, the voice of the Lord, scriptures, prophets, angels).
  • They experienced life events, such as marriage and children, along the way.
  • The journey was much longer than they expected.
  • They suffered afflictions, including hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, pregnancy, childbirth, “mechanical” failures, heat, desolation, contention, death and storms.
  • They were also nourished, strengthened, led, taught, and provided for, according to their faith and obedience.
  • Some complained, focusing on the negative aspects and idealizing what they left behind.
  • Others recognized the blessings and focused on the positive, recognizing the hand of the Lord in their lives.

Does any of that seem familiar?

“Like Lehi, we have been commanded to separate ourselves spiritually from the world to escape the of sin. Like Lehi, we each have a journey to take with our families either into the “precious land” of our Father’s kingdom or into captivity and death.

Our destiny is entirely our choice. We can choose to hearken or not. We can choose as Nephi did to listen to the Lord and be preserved by his power, or to choose as Laman and Lemuel did to harden our hearts. Both paths are hard, but while one leads to darkness and futility, the other leads to the light. The path that leads to the Savior, although challenging at times, is ultimately the path of “simpleness and easiness,” and our labor is to look to Christ and live (1 Ne. 17:41).”

—Breck England, Meridian Magazine

How does their journey compare to our own? What lessons can we learn from their journey and reactions?

I loved the thoughts of Nancy W. Jensen, at www.gospeldoctrineplus.blogspot.com. The following is adapted from her lesson. I highly recommend you read her excellent post (just click on the link above). I put brackets around my additions.

"AND THUS WE SEE, that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth 1) nourish them, and 2) strengthen them, and 3) provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; WHEREFORE, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness" (1 Nephi 17:3).

But not everyone on the trip felt so positive about the journey, and no one felt so positive about it all the time. Let's look at this story to see how we can be better travelers and find joy in our journeys.


Trust in the Lord.

[How has trusting the Lord helped you through your trials? How can we be better at trusting Him?

What doctrines and principles, if properly understood, will help us to be trusting, grateful, faithful and obedient, like Nephi?

Joseph Smith taught “that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. 
First, the idea that he actually exists. 
Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. 
Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5)]

After re-telling the story of Exodus to his brothers, Nephi reminded them of the character of God:

"And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. BEHOLD, he 1) loved our fathers, and he 2) covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he 3) remembered the covenants which he had made; WHEREFORE, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.” (1 Nephi 17:40)

Use the scriptures as a map.

Nephi wanted his brothers to see that they were being guided by the Lord, and that they would reach their destination, so he likened their journey unto another journey they were familiar with from their scriptures, the Brass Plates.

Similarly, as we study the scriptures, there are many things we can learn about the Lord's dealings with his people over centuries of time that will help us see and understand that by His word, everything will work out in the end for us as well.

Be patient.

When they stopped at the shore of the Red Sea, they called the place Bountiful. When they got to America, they called that land Bountiful, too. There is never any indication that Lehi knew that the promised land would be across the sea until Nephi was told to build a ship when they were already living in a wonderful location. It seems very likely that the travelers thought that the Bountiful by the Red Sea was their final destination, their promised land. Was it possibly a little disheartening to find out that they had only just begun their journey at that point, eight years after leaving Jerusalem, and the most treacherous part lay ahead? [1 Ne. 17:4] When we find that a difficult life journey has yet another twist to it, can we calmly load up our bags and keep going?

[Think about how your life has deviated from your plans—what have you learned from the surprises?

Quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity]

Have faith even while having questions.

When the Lord commanded them to leave this beautiful and fruitful land Bountiful by crossing a treacherous sea in a homemade ship, everyone had questions. But Nephi's questions were useful. "Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship?" Do the questions we ask when we are in challenging positions reflect our faith? Instead of asking "Why me?" as Laman and Lemuel did, can we ask, "What do you want me to do?" as Nephi did?

[A comparison of the questions asked by L&L and Nephi would make a great study topic. Also, there is a great book by Wendy Watson Nelson called Change Your Questions, Change Your Life—I highly recommend it.]

Don't look back.

Laman and Lemuel chose to whine and complain. "It would have been better" to have died in Jerusalem, they said. However, they didn't really think they would have died in Jerusalem, because the next thing they said was that instead of suffering in the wilderness, "we might have enjoyed our possessions," "we might have been happy." (1 Ne. 17:20-22) But the destruction of Jerusalem really did happen and their "afflictions in the wilderness" were mighty blessings compared to the real "might-have-beens."

Do we complain about our blessings?

See the blessings in every part of the journey. Be Grateful.

[I admit I tend to focus too much on the destination. “I’ll be happy when…

  • Finals are over
  • I graduate
  • I get married
  • I get pregnant
  • This pregnancy ends!
  • I don’t have to change diapers anymore J
  • Etc.

What strategies do you use to find joy in the journey? How have you taught your children to do this?

"Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings. Said one well-known author: “Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.”

—President Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey, Oct. 2008 conference]

Focus on what is important.

I love finding general conference talks that go along with what I'm studying in the Book of Mormon. Here are a few more excerpts from the above talk given by President Monson in October 2008:

“I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

"Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us."

"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."]

Recognize the Lord's hand in the journey.

"I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." (1 Ne. 17:13)

Look for "the light in the wilderness." Give thanks for it in your evening prayers. Keep track of it in your journal.


One of the first things the Lord commanded Nephi to do after the families arrived in the promised land was to keep a record (1 Nephi 19:1). What are the blessings we receive when we record sacred events in our lives? How do you journal, and what strategies help you to do it?

Henry B. Eyring's October 2007 conference talk, O Remember, Remember was the inspiration for my own commitment to journaling. After hearing his talk I began a family blog as well as a private journal specifically to record the hand of the Lord in my life. If you are looking for motivation to start, or restart, or keep going, I highly recommend reading his talk.

Another journaling experience that I loved was an anniversary gift for my husband. Years ago, on January 1st, I began writing down something each day that I appreciated about him. I kept it up until our anniversary (alright, only until February 22nd). It was a great way to focus on my blessings, and hopefully show him my gratitude and love.

If you are overwhelmed at the idea of having to write a lot, you might want to check out a "one-sentence journal," like this one, or an online version, here.

1 Nephi 19:23 tells us that Nephi used the scriptures to teach his brethren, and that he "did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning." How can scripture journals help us to do this in our own lives? What suggestions do you have for doing this? (See the links on the sidebar for some great ideas online).


Nephi gave some compelling reasons to study Isaiah:

  • That we might be more fully persuaded to believe in the Lord (19:23)
  • That we might have hope (19:24)
I am NOT an expert on Isaiah. In fact, I remember skipping 2nd Nephi entirely the first time I read the Book of Mormon, reading it only after I'd finished the rest of the book, simply because I had been stalled there so many times. I now have a greater appreciation of Isaiah, especially the beautiful language and portrayal of the Savior. I'm looking forward to learning more this time through. I recommend reading the Feast Upon the Word post by Joe Spencer (scroll down to the bottom for the part about Isaiah).

For now, here is one scripture that seems to me to sum up much of what we learn in this lesson:
"Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And they thirsted not; he led them through the deserts; he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed out. And notwithstanding, he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked" (1 Nephi 20:20-22).

Lesson 4 Links

"The Things I Saw When I Was Carried Away in the Spirit"

Class Member Study Guide.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lesson 3: The Vision of the Tree of Life

Reading assignment: 1 Ne. 8-11; 12:16-18; 15.

Questions to keep in mind as we study these passages:

“What was the question that brought about the inquiry and the revelation?”

“Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record?”

“What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”

—from Ezra Taft Benson, The Keystone of Our Religion

Something else to watch out for:

Julie B. Beck:

A friend of mine suggested that I start looking for questions that the Lord asks us in the scriptures and ponder them (see John S. Tanner, “Responding to the Lord’s Questions,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 26). Since then I have discovered many important questions such as “What desirest thou?” (1 Ne. 11:2) and “What think ye of Christ?” Matt. 22:42). I keep a list of those questions in the back of my scriptures. I often choose one to think about in quiet moments because pondering enlightens my mind that I “might understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). From My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures, April 2004 GC.

So…after Nephi and his brothers return with the brass plates, and make a second trip to bring Ismael and his family, Lehi, who was “a visionary man” has another vision. What did he see? (1 Ne. 8:2-34)

How did his family react to his vision?

Laman & Lemuel—“disputed one with another” (1 Ne. 15:2)

Nephi—desired to “see and hear and know” for himself (1 Ne. 10:17)

How important is it for us to know for ourselves?

How can we follow Nephi’s pattern of finding out for ourselves? (1 Ne. 10:17, 11:1)

  1. Hear words spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  2. Desire to see, hear & know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  3. Believe that the Lord was able to make them known.
  4. Ponder in our hearts.
  5. Seek diligently.

What did Nephi see?

A similar, but not identical, vision. Lehi’s seems to focus on his family, while Nephi’s seems more historical. Nephi asks for, and receives, interpretation for both visions. As a result, he is shown:

  • A vision of Mary, John the Baptist and the Savior
  • The Land of Promise & Gentile nations
  • Meanings of the symbols

Importance of the Nephi’s vision:

Boyd K. Packer:

After the people of Lehi had arrived in the Western Hemisphere, Lehi had a vision of the tree of life. His son Nephi prayed to know its meaning. In answer, he was given a remarkable vision of Christ. . . . That vision is the central message of the Book of Mormon. Apr 1986 GC.

What were the symbols and interpretation? How effective are the symbols?

(Click on the chart for a larger view, I couldn't get the formatting right when I copied and pasted this).

Four categories of people:

1 Ne. 8:21-23

Commence on path

Don’t take rod


Catch end of rod

Cling thru darkness


Catch end of rod

Continually hold fast


Feel way to building

Lose way in mist

Partake of fruit,

fall away, lost

Fall down (humility)

Partake of fruit

Many drown

Many lost

Many enter building & scoff

Want eternal life, but don’t study or follow word of God; Want other things more; Temptations

Baptized, gain testimony, cling to some principles to get them thru temptations; Uneasy over conflicts between gospel & world; Yield to social pressures, persecutions & worldliness (Elder Packer)

Study word of God, Listen to prophets

Seek riches & power of world; Word of God doesn’t apply; Don’t really want eternal life

Matt. 13:4, 19

Seeds by wayside—hear word, but don’t understand; Wicked one catches away their desires

13:5-6, 20-21

Stony ground—spring up, but scorched & wither; Hear word & receive it w/joy; Offended by persecution, etc.

13:8, 23

Good ground—hear & understand word; Bear fruit


Among thorns—care of world chokes the word of God

Don’t know, and know that they don’t know

Know, but don’t know that they know

Know, and know that they know

Don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know

(By the way, both of these great charts, and many other ideas for all lessons, are credited to my awesome father-in-law, who kindly let me copy his extensive notes, made over years as gospel doctrine teacher and mission president).

What lesson can I learn from this? What category am I in? Which direction am I heading? How can I prevent falling away?

The Lord’s questions in this assignment:

  • “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16, asked by angel, not the Lord, but acting as representative)

W1828 condescension: “Voluntary descent from rank, dignity or just claims; relinquishment of strict right; submission to inferiors in granting requests or performing acts which strict justice does not require.”

Gordon B. Hinckley:

Well did an angel ask a prophet who had foreseen these things in vision: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne. 11:16.) I suppose none of us can fully understand that—how the great Jehovah should come among men, his birth in a manger, among a hated people, in a vassal state. Apr 1978 GC.

  • “What desirest thou?” (1 Ne. 11:2, 10)

What is it that we most desire? I remember asking Rob, years ago, what question he would ask the Lord if he had the chance. I thought he would want to know some deep gospel mystery. He surprised me by saying “That’s easy. I would ask Him if he could forgive me.”

I’m not saying Nephi made a mistake by asking for knowledge, but there is a big difference between intellectual knowledge and spiritual understanding. As Elder Bednar says, knowledge is important, but not enough.

“So if we think about Lehi’s vision, we need to conclude that the love of God is something that you have to seek and choose to partake of, and that it is most desireable. That some people don’t even want it; that large numbers of people who are actively looking for it will wander off and not get it; that people who do partake of it might feel ashamed; that the building occupants make fun of people who partake of it. Is this how you normally think of the love of God? (I have to confess that I normally think of the love of God as free and easily available, there for everyone, and reaches out to you the very second you make the teeniest effort to get it. This vision causes me to reconsider that.)” —Julie M. Smith, Times and Seasons blog

How can we increase our desire for God's love?

How can be keep from falling away?

How do we "heed not" those in the great and spacious building?

So many questions to ponder in this lesson. I'd love to hear your questions and comments.