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God in 1 Nephi 17

Almighty God  • God  • Lord

Lord their God  • Lord thy God  • Lord your God

Redeemer  • Spirit of God  • The True and Living God

1 Nephi 17:2

The blessings of the Lord upon us

The Book of Mormon shows

that God can strengthen people to bear their individual challenges

And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us,

that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness,

our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong,

yea, even like unto the men;

and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.

Nephi gives credit to God for every good thing.  It seems natural consequences that as people struggle through physical difficulties, they become physically stronger. They become accustomed to the new norms.  When women have children, they have something special and important to occupy their minds and their time and their hearts, and they don’t have to complain.  As people trade their city diet for one of raw meat, they become healthy and strong.  (That’s all easy for me to say from my comfortable chair in my comfortable, civilized house.)

God made people with this resiliency and self-improvement ability, so it is right to give Him credit.  Whether in spite of or because of their afflictions, their physical and emotion state improved, it was due to the blessings of the Lord.

1 Nephi 17:3

He did provide means for us

The Book of Mormon teaches that

God nourishes, strengthens, and provides for those who keep His commandments

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 nourish them, and strengthen them,

and 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.

The group has kept the commandments of God by leaving Jerusalem, not returning to Jerusalem, staying in the wilderness, and following the directions of the Ball.  The specific commandment Nephi is referring to is part of the life mission, given by the Lord, for this family.   Despite setbacks, unfamiliar territory, and loss, we, too, can persevere in our life work.  We can look to the Lord, when needed, to nourish us, strengthen us, and provide means to accomplish our work.

In fact, their life work was not to wander in the wilderness; that was merely a preparatory phase.  All their hardships prepared them to enter the promised land, which we can be sure was a much less harsh environment than their Arabian wilderness.  They are surviving a period of exile, and will be able to more fully appreciate the abundance of the Promised Land.

1 Nephi 17:5

Prepared of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches us

to be grateful for His preparation of this earth with its abundance

And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful,

because of its much fruit and also wild honey;

and all these things were prepared of the Lord that we might not perish.

And we beheld the sea, which we called Irreantum,

which, being interpreted, is many waters.

True to form, Nephi gives the Lord credit for the wonderful land they have reached at the end of their Arabian sojourn.  Because he is still talking about the possibility of perishing, we can certainly assume that those have been eight arduous years.

Current environmentalist thinking places plant and animal species on a par with humanity, with some sort of obligation on our part to preserve them for their mere existence.  Nephi subscribes to the idea that the Lord created the earth for the sake of His children; there is enough and to spare.  (see Doctrine & Covenants 59:16-21)

1 Nephi 17:7

“Arise, and get thee into the mountain”

In the Book of Mormon, as in the Bible,

God speaks particularly to His messengers on a mountain

And it came to pass that after I, Nephi,

had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days,

the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain,

and cried unto the Lord.

The Lord chose not to point the Ball out to sea, or to speak to Lehi about His plans. Nephi’s role is expanding.  The next leg of their journey requires some advanced planning, and God is once again, or still, providing means to complete the assignment He has given them.

Nephi’s great vision began on a mountain to which the Spirit had taken him.  The Lord chooses to communicate His next instructions from a mountain, also, as He did with Moses.

Most Latter-day Saints interpret Isaiah 2:2,3 to refer to Latter-day temples.  (There are additional interpretations.)  The Lord says to each of us, “Arise, and get thee into the mountain,” and we should respond, “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.”

1 Nephi 17:8

“After the manner which I shall show thee”

The Book of Mormon shows

that God gives direction at critical junctures to those who obey Him

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying:

Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee,

that I may carry thy people across these waters.

The family traveled through the wilderness, or desert, for eight years.  When they found Bountiful, they may have thought they had arrived in the Promised Land.  Surely, since their difficult journey had been so lengthy, they may have expected to stay here in Bountiful at least that long.  But, though it was “many days,” it was not many years, and it is time to move on.

As for Nephi, we can predict his response.  This is a new commandment from the Lord: “Thou shalt.”  We – and the Lord - can be sure that he’ll move heaven and earth to get the job done.

1 Nephi 17:9

Whither shall I go?

The Book of Mormon shows how to respond faithfully to a difficult assignment

And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten,

that I may make tools to construct the ship

after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?

There is a gap between verses 8 and 9.  In verse 8, the Lord will show Nephi how to build the ship; in verse 9 He has shown him.  Whatever Nephi’s other thoughts or reactions might have been to the new commandment and the vision of the ship, he goes straight to the point.  

Although they have been there many days, they may have been subsisting on that good fruit and honey, rather than hunting animals.  Nephi may not be too familiar with the rock outcrops, and certainly not with whatever might be buried.  But it would be an unusual person whose first thought is to find ore to make tools to make a ship.  The tools themselves are generally considered the basic need; who knows how to use ore to make tools?  It gives us a clue that Nephi had experience with metal work.  His fascination with Laban’s sword supports that idea.

Nephi asks for what he absolutely needs, and cannot do himself.  Other than that, he’s willing to do all the work.

1 Nephi 17:10

The Lord told me

The Book of Mormon shows how God is faithful

to make up the difference between our own abilities and the task at hand

And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore,

that I might make tools.

It looks like every time Nephi prays for something, the Lord immediately provides it.  We must remember that eight years have gone by since the last specific story.  We can assume that Nephi prayed faithfully, and not every prayer would be answered immediately and positively.  But now, when Nephi has received an assignment and cannot fulfil it without the Lord’s help, he shows us that the Lord does provide the means to accomplish his commandment.

The Lord has a plan for the life of each of His children, including you.  His plan allows us to maximize our potential, which only He knows, to develop toward being like Him, and to give service during this mortal life.  As we are willing, he unveils that plan to us, line upon line.

You may already know the next step you should take in your life, but you’ve put it on the back burner as you enjoy your Bountiful.  You probably didn’t learn it in a mountain-top conversation.  You would have learned it through the Spirit.  Maybe you learned it in the holy temple, or during sacrament meeting, or General Conference, or personal scripture study.  Maybe it’s in your patriarchal blessing, or in your Church calling.  But maybe, unlike Nephi, you didn’t get right on it.

Now is a good time to find out what your next step is, according to the Lord.  But only with a commitment to do it.  Ponder what’s holding you back.  If you can solve the problem yourself, do it.  Otherwise, ask the Lord for help in fulfilling his commandment to you.

1 Nephi 17:12

We did not make fire

The Book of Mormon gives a hint as to the security precautions

enjoined by the Lord as the family traveled through the dangerous desert

For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire,

as we journeyed in the wilderness;

for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

By “sweet,” the Lord probably means “palatable,” which would have been helpful during their sojourn in the desert.  I suppose He also made it sanitary, which is also a major function of cooking.

We don’t know exactly why the Lord didn’t allow them to make much fire.  Surely it would have not been as difficult for this small group to gather fuel as it was for the two million people led by Moses.  On the other hand, this small group would have been more vulnerable to roaming bandits.  So no fire, no smoke would have allowed them to travel privately, except when they wanted to interact with communities.

It’s interesting to compare the wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness with Lehi’s family’s nomadic sojourn.  The Israelites were going to inherit a fertile, already-cultivated land.  They already knew how to live as laborers.  In fact, it may have been their unhappy skill at scavenging for twigs to make brick that allowed such a large group to have fire in their journeyings.  But the Lord didn’t require them to do any significant work in gathering food – He provided that for free.  Their great need was to develop faith, and the daily manna was a symbol to them and us of His constant provision.

The Lehi colony was going to settle a fertile, virgin wilderness.  After being city dwellers, they needed to develop resiliency and skills.  So the Lord allowed them to acquire their own meat, though He led them to where they would find it.  He didn’t drop it in their laps, as He did the Children of Israel.  He let them experience very strict cause and effect, and develop habits and hopefully attitudes of diligence and hard work.

1 Nephi 17:13

I will be your Light

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Lord is our light, and if we obey Him we will be led by Him

And 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.

When the children of Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness, the Lord provided guidance in the form of a pillar of fire; He was their light.  Although Nephi does not mention any miraculous light during their sojourn, the Lord announces that He is their light on this journey as well.  

The children of Israel received manna in good times and bad, whether obedient or not.  It was to develop faith in His constancy, not habits of faithfulness in His people.  For Lehi’s group, they will experience a direct cause-and-effect relationship between their obedience to His commandments, and His guidance in leading them to the more fertile parts of the wilderness.

We are wandering in the wilderness of mortality.  The Lord desires to lead us to a promised land, to our ultimate goal of building Zion in our lives, and to receiving eternal life.  The Lord enlightens our minds on this journey through His Spirit, which is conditioned upon our faithfulness to Him.  It is important to keep His commandments, whether the general rules of behavior that He has given humanity in general and His covenant people in particular, or whether it is the specific guidance He has already given us individually.  Why would He give guidance and inspiration if we do not heed it?  He is not wasteful.

1 Nephi 17:14

I did deliver you

The Book of Mormon shows

that we can look back on our lives and see God’s hand of deliverance

Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land,

ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God;

and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction;

yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

This brief speech by the Lord is so typical of His communications.  He begins by helping them with a specific detail of their lives.  He moves on to explain the spiritual implications of this detail.  And finally He concludes with a big picture explanation.  In fact, these individual people will not “know” of Jerusalem’s destruction unless they believe in the word of prophecy.  The Lehi people will not have verifiable testimony of this event until several hundred years from now, when they meet up with the descendants of a contemporaneous group, but one who fled slightly after the destruction, and experienced it firsthand.

Keep in mind as you read any communication from God that He may be seeing far into the future.  Because something has not been fulfilled in your brief lifetime, or according to your limited understanding says more about your perspective than the Lord’s faithfulness.

God is in the details, and God is in the vastness.  When you allow Him to infuse the details of your life, it becomes richer, more vibrant, and somehow bigger.

1 Nephi 17:15

Strive to keep the commandments of the Lord

The Book of Mormon

gives us many exhortations to keep the commandments of God

Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord,

and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence.

With his “wherefore,” Nephi gives us his reason for keeping the commandments of the Lord.  There are several reasons one may think of, such as to avoid condemnation and judgement, or because the results of keeping commandments are more positive than not keeping them (“In this there is safety and peace”), or because of love and respect for God and His authority.  Nephi says he keeps them because the Lord has promised great things, conditioned on obedience.  Or perhaps he says he keeps them because he recognizes his debt to God in delivering them from Jerusalem’s destruction.

Why do you keep the commandments of the Lord?

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