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God in 1 Nephi 7

In 1 Nephi 7 in the Book of Mormon, God has again given a commandment to Lehi's sons to return to Jerusalem for wives, so that they may have families.  They obey his command.  When they tell Ishmael what the Lord has commanded, he accepts and agrees to take his family with them in the wilderness.  However, on the way back there is trouble, and some of the younger generation rebel against God's commandments and want to return to Jerusalem.  It is only with great difficulty, and help from the Lord, that Nephi persuades them to carry on and be faithful.  In the end they repent and pray to the Lord for forgiveness.  When they arrive back at Lehi's tent, the whole group thanks God.

Lord  •  The Spirit of the Lord

The Lord their God •  The Lord

1 Nephi 7:1

Raise up seed unto the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches how important families are -

fathers and mothers, raising children - in God’s plan

And now I would that ye might know,

that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed,

it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again,

saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi,

that he should take his family into the wilderness alone;

but that his sons should take daughters to wife,

that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.

For the second time the Lord steps in and gives instructions on another essential element needed for the group’s long-term success:  go get wives.  The record indicates that Lehi was generally rejected by his people.  We do not know if Lehi was able to convert anyone at all.  We do know that they did not consider themselves to be the only righteous ones in the city -  Jeremiah and the other prophets were faithful to the Lord.  We know that the Lord instructed Lehi to take his family and flee into the wilderness, and he was obedient to that literal command.  Now the Lord looks beyond the moment and provides for a bigger family.  The Lord wants to Book of Mormon story to continue beyond 1 Nephi.

1 Nephi 7:2

Return to Jerusalem

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him

that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem,

and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.

Amazingly, the Lord even selected which family would be willing and worthy to participate in this great venture, and who would provide good wives for the brothers.  In this culture young people were accustomed to having their spouses chosen by their parents.  We do not know what prior arrangements may have been made by Lehi and Sariah in behalf of their sons, but now the Lord is taking charge of this responsibility.  

This is one area where it appears Laman and Lemuel did not rebel.  In fact, later in their murmurings they express concern for their wives (1 Nephi 17:20), and a few decades after that, although the Lamanites have broken from the Nephites and become savages, Jacob commends them for their faithfulness to their wives and families (Jacob 3:5-7). The Lamanites respected the purity of women (Mosiah 19:13,14) and spared the Nephites for the sake of their daughters, so it would have been particularly heinous when their own daughters were abducted just two years later (Mosiah 20).  Assaults against women among the Lamanites are never mentioned until they are contaminated by degenerate Nephites.  

We generally see the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon as one-dimensional, the quintessential evil doers.  But in the very important area of family relations they may have been more upstanding than many of the Nephites, and this may have been one of the reasons the Lord was merciful with them through the ages.  

Now in our day we choose our own spouse.  But even if the Lord has not overtly been involved in the choosing, once we have made the marriage vows, we are under obligation to the spouse and to the Lord to be faithful.  The marriage covenant and relationship itself is a gift from God, to be cherished and appreciated.

What can you do today to show your appreciation for your family, and to strengthen your family’s bonds?  Are you doing any murmuring about your family that you need to stop doing?

1 Nephi 7:4

The words of the Lord

The Book of Mormon encourages us

to share the words of the Lord with our neighbors.

And it came to pass that we went up unto the house of Ishmael,

and we did gain favor in the sight of Ishmael,

insomuch that we did speak unto him the words of the Lord.

It sounds like Nephi and his brothers visited Ishmael based on their previous acquaintance, or their charm.  The Book of Mormon does not elucidate their previous relationship.  But once in the door, they shared the important message of their mission:  The Lord has commanded something, and we should obey.

 Missionaries “gain favor” in many ways through their creative door approaches and other means of meeting people.  That’s only the first step.  Basking in the favor is not the point.  The point is to share the message of what the Lord has planned, what the Lord is doing today to help us with our current situation, and to teach and encourage them to follow the guidance and commandments of the Lord.

1 Nephi 7:5

The Lord softened their hearts

The Book of Mormon shows how the Lord

is a helpful companion in softening people’s hearts.

And it came to pass that the Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael,

and also his household,

insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness

to the tent of our father.

Nephi records that he and his brothers successfully returned to Jerusalem, and successfully gained an audience with Ishmael.  But he credits the Lord with achieving the positive outcome of convincing Ishmael and his family to join them in their wilderness venture.

We do what we can in our lives.  In our diaries we write “I did this,” or “I accomplished that.”  We can improve our perspective by “confessing the hand of the Lord in all things (Doctrine & Covenants 29:21) as Nephi models in the Book of Mormon.

1 Nephi 7:9

They did not hearken unto the words of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches us to hearken to the word of the Lord.

How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?

It must have been particularly grievous to Nephi when, happy with the success of their expedition and returning with future wives to their father in the wilderness, Laman and Lemuel begin rebelling again.  As he remonstrates with them, he asks why they have not hearkened to the word of the Lord.

The verb tense is interesting.  In fact, they’ve been right there at his side the whole time, doing everything required for their escape into the wilderness.  They trudged along and participated in the Brass Plates acquisition.  They’ve stuck with their parents though the whole journey.  Yes, they’ve complained, but they’ve been there, doing their part.  So why does Nephi say they “have not?”

Because the Lord “requires the heart and a willing mind (Doctrine & Covenants 64:34).  It isn’t enough to go through the motions.  When you just go through the motions, you aren’t really on board.

It’s true they never hearkened to the Lord.  They did what was required, but it was because someone – dad or little brother – “made” them.  

Are you hearkening to the Lord in living the gospel today?  Are you doing something grudgingly, and not really on board?  Are you finding reasons to complain about the Lord’s plan, or are you finding ways to accomplish it?

1 Nephi 7:10

Ye have forgotten

The Book of Mormon encourages us to remember God’s hand in our lives.

How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?

Here Nephi laments that his brothers have forgotten so many things.  They have forgotten that they have seen an angel of the Lord.  Nephi does not bother to remind them why this is significant in the current circumstance – that angel told the brothers that Nephi was destined to be their leader.  So they should follow his lead back to their father in the wilderness, and not break off to return to Jerusalem.

The Lord sends us messages – through the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon and the Bible, through His servants – but he doesn’t show up at every crossroads to reiterate that message.  He expects us to remember, and take responsibility for that memory.

1 Nephi 7:11

What great things the Lord hath done for us

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?

The second point Nephi mentions that his brothers have forgotten:  how the Lord helped them on their previous mission.  This should be evidence that He wanted the Brass Plates – and their family – out of Jerusalem, not heading back towards it.  For Nephi, pointing out what the Lord wants should be evidence enough of what they ought to do.

Sometimes it may be difficult in our own lives to do what we know is the Lord’s will.  We are torn between our comfort zone and a new road.  What He wants should be good enough to tip the scales of our behavior, but we can also remember how He has helped us in the past to break with stagnant aspects of our lives.  We can trust Him that His adventures are better than our life of familiar placidity.

1 Nephi 7:12

The Lord is able to do all things

The Book of Mormon teaches that there are no limits

on what the Lord can do to help us, if we are faithful to Him.

Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten

that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men,

if it so be that they exercise faith in him?

Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

Nephi concludes his recital of what his brothers have forgotten.  They have forgotten to have faith in an All-powerful God.  Nephi’s faith is not a passive acknowledgement of God’s existence or truth.  It’s an active, mobilizing condition.  He tells them to exercise faith, and to be faithful.  Faith should infuse their being.  Faith should be something continuously practiced, and made stronger thereby.  The Book of Mormon has many examples of people with a strong, vibrant, living faith.

Having faith should not fit in a declarative sentence: “I have faith.”  It needs another clause – “Because I have faith, I. . .”  What does your faith lead you to?  How do you exercise faith?  How are you faithful to the Lord?

1 Nephi 7:13

The word of the Lord shall be fulfilled

The Book of Mormon teaches that all things which the Lord speaks will be fulfilled.

And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise;

and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord

shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem;

for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.

Nephi reminds his brothers of the foundational reason they’re leaving Jerusalem:  It’s scheduled to be destroyed.  With faith, Nephi extrapolates well.  All that the brothers see right now for their future is a sandy wandering or a secure city.  Nephi points them beyond that, both to Jerusalem’s future destruction, and to their own securing of a promised land.  It takes faith to see what is not yet.

This Book of Mormon incident makes an excellent allegory for our journey through life, either living in a comfortable and doomed state, or working hard to finally obtain a promised land in heaven.

1 Nephi 7:14

The Spirit of the Lord ceaseth to strive with the wicked

The Book of Mormon teaches that

God’s Spirit will not always be available to those who reject Him.

For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them;

for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father,

insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.

Nephi explains why Jerusalem is ripe for destruction, why the Lord can no longer work with her:  She has rejected the prophets.  As long as people are willing to entertain the prophets, to allow them to give their message, to maintain the possibility that they will hear and turn to the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord is there, encouraging faith and obedience and commitment.  But when the prophets are silenced and muzzled, there is no link for the Holy Spirit, no foundation on which He can work, no venue in which to testify.  This was the dismal state Jerusalem was approaching when the Book of Mormon begins.

Spend time each day making room in your heart for the Spirit of the Lord to strive with you, by accessing the words of His prophets.

1 Nephi 7:15

The Spirit of the Lord constrains me to speak

Now behold, I say unto you

that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them.

And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land,

and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish;

for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.

The conclusion of Nephi’s persuasive speech to his brothers is an ultimatum directly from the Spirit:  Do not return, but if you do, you will be destroyed, and you will know that I told you so.   God has let Nephi work with his brothers, but in the end, knowing how critical it is for Laman and Lemuel, and perhaps how important they are to the new civilization He is establishing, He stepped in, using the strongest language to induce them to continue their participation.

1 Nephi 7:17

According to my faith which is in thee

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Lord works with us according to our faith in Him

But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying:

O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee,

wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren;

yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.

Nephi prayed very sincerely.  He already had experience with the Lord giving him strength to accomplish a previous mission.  He now asks for that strength again, and bases his request on his own faith in the Lord.  

The Lord answered this prayer immediately.  Nephi didn’t even have to work to “burst the bands;” the bands were unloosed of themselves.

Every answer to prayer strengthened Nephi’s faith, and he intends it to strengthen ours.  He continues to show us that the Lord answers prayers, and that the Lord delivers.

1 Nephi 7:21

Pray unto the Lord for forgiveness

The Book of Mormon teaches how important it is to pray for forgiveness.

And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done,

and I did exhort them

that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness.

And it came to pass that they did so.

And after they had done praying unto the Lord

we did again travel on our journey towards the tent of our father.

Nephi has had such great success with his own prayers.  When his brothers’ hearts are softened by the words of their traveling companions, and they apologize for their behavior to Nephi, and he forgives them, Nephi sees an opportunity to point them to the Lord their God.  He encourages them to pray and apologize to the Lord, and not just to him.  This is the first time he records that they prayed.  He notes that they paused their journey while they prayed, and after that continued on.  Surely at this time Nephi must have been very hopeful toward his brothers.  If they can pray and have that communication with the Lord, then they can have a permanent basis for repentance and change.

Jesus taught that the prayer of repentance was imperative in our progress, and in finding favor with God:  “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  (Luke 18:13)

Do you have nothing to repent of?  Ponder this poem:

The Fool’s Prayer

By Edward Rowland Sills

1 Nephi 7:22

They gave thanks unto the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches us to give thanks to God in our successes.

And it came to pass that we did come down unto the tent of our father.

And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael

had come down unto the tent of my father,

they did give thanks unto the Lord their God;

and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him.

At the conclusion of this second successful venture to Jerusalem Lehi’s group once again offers sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord.  He instigated the quest, and it has come full circle with their acknowledgement of His hand in its accomplishment.

These sacrifices and burnt offerings were doubtless more sacrificial in nature than their previous rote observance of the Law of Moses.  Now they have no more source to replenish their stock.  Is that why, in the next verse, Nephi mentions the seeds they have gathered – they are no longer eating a meat-rich diet?

It seems appropriate for us to thank the Lord when we are able to accomplish his requests:  home/visiting teaching, Church callings, participating in the 3-fold mission of the Church.

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"
The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.
He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
"No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
"'T is not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'T is by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.
"These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.
"The ill-timed truth we might have kept--
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say--
Who knows how grandly it had rung!
"Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders -- oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.
"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"
The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"

God in 1 Nephi 7 By the Numbers

22 verses

God is mentioned by name:  14 verses = 64%

Verses about God:  14 verses = 64%

The Lord:  9

The Spirit of the Lord:  2

The Lord their God:  2

Lord:  1

1 Nephi 8 1 Nephi 6