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
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: Iwill 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
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.