Monday, June 5, 2017

Friends like Nephi

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading through a lot of scripture. One book that I re-read was 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Nephi is such a rock-solid person. I couldn't help wishing that I could have a person like Nephi as a friend. Most people would not like Nephi as a friend. As someone who possessed real love, he would have striven to point out all your faults until you either fixed them or God told him to leave you, even if you tried to kill him multiple times. I rejoice in learning about my errors, so I love when I meet someone who knows more than I do and is willing to help me to where they are. It has happened many times in my life, and most of what I am today is due to the intervention of others.

As I got to thinking about Nephi, I realized that I in fact have at least 2 friends like Nephi. When I read the account, I realize they are just like him. Like Laman and Lemuel, most people never appreciate the Nephis in this world. Perhaps they expect someone to go around performing obvious miracles or spouting great, deep truths. It doesn't work that way. Most of the miracles they perform are quickly explained away, or are done in private, and the truths they expound are limited to the heed and diligence of those who are listening, which is usually quite low. The audience doesn't ask, seek, or knock, so the handles of new truth emitted constantly by these people are not followed through to the meat of the topic. They teach much, much less than they know.

Another thing about godly people is that they walk in almost constant sorrow. If you look at Nephi's reaction from the vision of all things (he saw everything that would happen to his posterity until the end of the world), it was sorrow. Most of us say we would love to have a vision like that, to see the Savior and see all these future events. For Nephi, it was a bitter experience. It's important to know why.

The lives of the wicked are filled with suffering. It's the natural consequence of their choices. The wicked choose to act in opposition to rationality because they opt to blind themselves to the truth. They do not see things as they really are, and therefore are hit by the components of their choices that they choose to ignore, like a man who likes the look of a rope and decides to carry it without recognizing or admitting that it happens to be attached to a tiger. He gets mauled all day long without coming to the realization that there is a tiger attached to his beloved rope. Instead of letting go of the rope, he goes about his life moaning about how unlucky he is because he gets mauled by a tiger everyday when few others do.

The lives of the righteous are filled with sorrow, but it isn't because of their choices. It is because they see things as they really are, and they are filled with sorrow for those who do not. It is their love of others that brings with it their sorrow for them. They see men getting mauled by tigers all day long, and they are already doing everything they can (including taking some of those maulings themselves) to help them, mostly without ever really benefitting them.

This was the experience of Nephi. He had seen this awesome, long, intense vision, which included seeing all the bad choices and subsequent consequences of his brothers and their posterity, and his own posterity. Then he comes to and finds himself back in his father's tent. And what does he return to?

1 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the Spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought. (1 Nephi 15)

They were bickering about and against the breadcrumbs of truth their father had given him. Now, Nephi's entire experience came because he asked God to show him the same things his father saw. Instead of trying to experience the same things Lehi experienced, his brothers were arguing about it with one another. This is not the way to come up to God.

This filled Nephi with sorrow. He had been shown the destiny of his brothers, and now he was seeing it right before his eyes.

And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall. (1 Nephi 15:5)

This is my daily experience.

After he overcomes his feelings and mobilizes, he tries to help them ask God. Instead, they decide to ask him. He gives them a good deal of truth, but reread his response to his brothers. Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi about the vision. Nephi did the same to God. Contrast God's answer to Nephi with Nephi's answer to Laman and Lemuel. Consider what Laman and Lemuel knew and what Nephi knew at the conclusion of each answer. Laman and Lemuel knew hardly anything. Why didn't Nephi reveal more? Nephi obeyed the law revealed in Alma 12, that God can reveal truth to us only inasmuch as we have heed and diligence--inasmuch as we desire more and have obeyed what we have received. Laman and Lemuel not only had a poor track record of obedience, they also weren't even really paying attention to Nephi's answer to their questions. Nephi dropped clues that he knew far more than he was saying throughout his responses. If you reread his answers and compare them to his vision, you'll see. Instead of asking follow-on questions to get more, Laman and Lemuel simply ignored the clues, and went on in their ignorance. Most of the times, we are like this, and that is why we don't notice the Nephis among us. Like Laman and Lemuel, we go on blissfully unaware of what others are experiencing, focused narrowly on our own low-slope progress.