The Book of Mormon shows God’s patience in helping His children to achieve
And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me;
and we did work timbers of curious workmanship.
And the Lord did show me from time to time
after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.
1 Nephi isn’t so much an autobiography as a story of God. Nephi has told us that
God promised to help him build the ship, and now he tells us that God did indeed
do as He promised.
1 Nephi 18:2
After the manner which the Lord had shown me
The Book of Mormon shows that God can teach people new things,
new and better ways of doing something
Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers
after the manner which was learned by men,
neither did I build the ship after the manner of men;
but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me;
wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
Nephi re-emphasizes the point that building the ship was God’s project – He commanded
it and He directed it. Nephi knows himself to be a competent and versatile person,
and when first given the command he didn’t ask for building instructions, but only
for directions on obtaining the requisite ore – quite a raw material. He may have
seen ships, or even seen ships being built, and thought he could do it himself, as
he made a bow and arrow himself. But this is not to be an exercise in humility,
where he tries it his way and it doesn’t work. God steps in from the beginning to
direct the enterprise. And Nephi is very emphatic that he has never seen a ship
like this one before.
1 Nephi 18:3
I did go into the mount oft
The Book of Mormon teaches us to pray often,
and the Lord will show us great things
And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore
the Lord showed unto me great things.
This is an intriguing little verse. First of all, we notice that it’s a cause-and-effect
relationship. Because Nephi prayed, the Lord showed him great things. In context,
Nephi was praying about his calling – what the Lord had asked him to do, which exceeded
his own knowledge and abilities. He does not tell us what was the nature of these
“great things” that the Lord showed him. Were they great carpentry techniques? Maritime
architecture? Were they follow-ups to his great vision, as detailed in 1 Nephi 11-14?
Were they possibly expositions on the Book of Isaiah? Whatever they were, unlike
his great vision, they were his alone, and not something that he shares with us.
We can liken this Book of Mormon scripture to ourselves. We can determine to go
into the mount oft to pray, whether our “mount” is a literal wilderness high place
(not practical for most of us), another secluded area, the holy temple, or our own
closet (Matthew 6:6). And we can expect the Lord to show us great things. Of course,
Nephi never presents as a person waiting for every detailed instruction, but as a
person who moves ahead with whatever skill and knowledge he has, and at the same
time reaches for guidance and instructions from the Lord, and this must also be our
model. We can pray about our own assignments – our families, our Church callings,
and always our perpetual assignment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
This may be a good day to spend some time in your journal recording how the Lord
has instructed you.
1 Nephi 18:4
The workmanship was exceedingly fine
The Book of Mormon teaches that God is an exacting workman
And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship,
according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good,
and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine;
wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.
Because they saw that the work commissioned and directed by the Lord was good, Laman
and Lemuel’s faith increased, and they were humbled, knowing this work was beyond
their own abilities.
In the Bible, Genesis chapter 1 attributes “good” to God’s creative work seven times:
Day 1 the light was good, Day 3 the seas and land were good, and the plants were
good, Day 4 the lights were good, Day 5 the marine and flight animals were good,
and the dry land animals were good, and finally Day 6 everything was “very good.”
Through the ages people of faith have deepened their faith in God by their observations
and experiences of His creation, namely, in the natural world. Scientists, by their
closer, more focused and quantified observations have also been led to humble themselves
before God and acknowledge Him. Here are a few quotes, among many available:
“There are many ways in which people are made aware of their power to believe in
the supremacy of Divine guidance and power: through music or visual art, some event
or experience decisively influencing their life, looking through a microscope or
telescope, or just by looking at the miraculous manifestations or purposefulness
—Sir Ernst Chain, winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology “for
the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases.”
“To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power;
to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must
be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance
cannot be more grateful than knowledge.”
“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason
and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows
from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and
wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and
far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting
I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree
analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”
“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that
a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe–a spirit vastly superior to that
of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”–Albert
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist,
but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take
us from anything comparable to atheism. . . . If you study science deep enough and
long enough, it will force you to believe in God.”—Lord William Kelvin
“…Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind. God wanted us to recognize them
by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts… and
if piety allow us to say so, our understanding is in this respect of the same kind
as the divine, at least as far as we are able to grasp something of it in our mortal
"The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from
the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. . . . In the absence
of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence." – Isaac
“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science
brings men nearer to God. . . . Little science takes you away from God but more of
it takes you to Him.”
—Louis Pasteur, the founder of microbiology and immunology.
“I believe in God. In fact, I believe in a personal God who acts in and interacts
with the creation. I believe that the observations about the orderliness of the physical
universe, and the apparently exceptional fine-tuning of the conditions of the universe
for the development of life suggest that an intelligent Creator is responsible.”
“The best data we have (concerning the Big Bang) are exactly what I would have predicted,
had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.
. . .
“If there are a bunch of fruit trees, one can say that whoever created these fruit
trees wanted some apples. In other words, by looking at the order in the world, we
can infer purpose and from purpose we begin to get some knowledge of the Creator,
the Planner of all this. This is, then, how I look at God. I look at God through
the works of God’s hands and from those works imply intentions. From these intentions,
I receive an impression of the Almighty.”
—Arno Penzias, the 1978 Nobel Prize recipient in physics
“Being an ordinary scientist and an ordinary Christian seems perfectly natural to
me. It is also perfectly natural for the many scientists I know who are also people
of deep religious faith.”
—William D. Phillips, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for development of
methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.
“It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one
must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. . . . In
the words of Psalm 19, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth
his handiwork’. Thus scientific research is a worshipful act, in that it reveals
more of the wonders of God’s creation.”
–Arthur L. Schawlow, Professor of Physics at Stanford University and winner of the
1981 Nobel Prize in Physics.
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced
atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a
book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in
fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics
as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable
logic of my own special branch of physics. . . . From the perspective of the latest
physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable
—Professor of Mathematical Physics Frank Tipler, author of The Physics of Christianity
and The Physics of Immortality. Tipler is one of the two founders of the famous anthropic
principle regardingthe fundamental physical constants necessary for the origin of
life. He became a Christian as a result of his science.
“As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and
beauty, but we do not see our goal, we do not see the horizon; in the distance tower
still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects,
and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasized by every advance in science,
that ‘Great are the Works of the Lord’.”
—Sir Joseph J. Thomson, Nobel Prize winning physicist, discoverer of the electron,
founder of atomic physics.
“I build molecules for a living. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult that job
is. I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. My faith
has been increased through my research. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science
would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring
you closer to God.”
—James Tour, one of the world’s leading nanoscientists
“The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty
of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge
the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it
is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”
“They (evolutionists) challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we
really light a candle to see the sun? They say they cannot visualize a Designer.
Well, can a physicist visualize an electron? What strange rationale makes some physicists
accept the inconceivable electron as real while refusing to accept the reality of
a Designer on the grounds that they cannot conceive Him?”
“Although I know of no reference to Christ ever commenting on scientific work, I
do know that He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Thus I am certain that, were He among us today, Christ would encourage scientific
research as modern man’s most noble striving to comprehend and admire His Father’s
handiwork. The universe as revealed through scientific inquiry is the living witness
that God has indeed been at work.”
The Book of Mormon teaches, along with the Bible, that one path to knowing God may
include recognizing the good works that He does, either in His original creation
or in His direction of imperfect men.
1 Nephi 18:5
The voice of the Lord
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father,
that we should arise and go down into the ship.
God speaks to people to help them along. They may ask for His guidance, but ultimately
it is He who chooses when and what to reveal, and when to keep silent and let His
children work out their own situation.
Often enough the communication which He initiates is a surprise to the hearer, an
unexpected assignment, like His command to Lehi and his family to leave Jerusalem.
It is a challenge to accept these unexpected assignments, whether from the Lord’s
Spirit or His designated agent, like the bishop.
In this Book of Mormon verse, however, the revelation is an expected message. We
do not know how long they waited for this instruction. Noah waited two months in
a (doubtless) stinking ark after he had assured himself that the land was dry, before
the Lord gave the command to disembark. Sometimes the waiting can be as challenging
as the unexpected. We must always trust in the Lord’s timing.
1 Nephi 18:6
Fruits and meat and honey in abundance
The Book of Mormon teaches that there is a time to gather provisions
And it came to pass that on the morrow, after we had prepared all things,
much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance,
and provisions according to that which the Lordhad commanded us,
we did go down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds,
and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore,
we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children.
Obviously this Book of Mormon family didn’t do all this preparing the morning they
boarded the ship. But as Nephi is writing both about his own life and in testimony
of God’s goodness and deliverance, the ship-building project received his first attention
and was most memorable, and all the preparations, which must have been extensive,
are written more as an after-thought.
Nephi says that the Lord had commanded the gathering of food. The Lord would give
instructions on this because, although His people have developed great self-reliance
and toughness on their trek through the wilderness, a long sea-voyage was still beyond
their learning curve.
It is not clear when all the food-gathering and preparing occurred. Food gathering
is seasonal; we may assume that at the appropriate season the Lord had commanded
them concerning the collecting and drying of fruits and meats. It may have begun
before the ship-building, happened at the same time as the ship-building, or perhaps
all efforts may have been directed first to the ship, and then to the food.
They gathered according to their age. The oldest child must not have been over 8
years of age, but doubtless all these children worked and helped as much as possible.
1 Nephi 18:10
We will not
The Book of Mormon shows that we should respect God’s anger
And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us,
and smite us because of our iniquity,
that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea;
wherefore, I, Nephi, began to speak to them with much soberness;
but behold they were angry with me, saying:
We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us.
Obviously this is not the first time the Book of Mormon records that Laman and Lemuel
have had bad attitudes and bad actions. In speaking of his own feelings concerning
this, on three separate occasions Nephi has said he was “grieved because of the hardness
of their hearts.” (1 Nephi 2:18, 1 Nephi 7:8, 1 Nephi 15:4 In the most recent ship-building,
brother-shocking experience, Nephi introduced a new element into his feelings: fear.
He feared for his brothers’ sake, realizing how spiritually perilous these repeated
refusals to maintain faithfulness were to his brothers. He feared lest they should
be cast off.
Now, on a perilous sea, Nephi is again afraid. He does not fear the wind and the
waves themselves, but he fears their natural consequences if the Lord does not uphold
his family. On the one hand he knows they will arrive in the Promised Land safely;
he has seen their great history unfold before his eyes. Is he doubting his own vision?
On the other hand, he must know that blessings are predicated on obedience and faithfulness.
Whatever his brothers are doing in their party, he knows it’s contrary to the will
of the Lord, and thus might be the cause of losing the blessing and protection of
God. He has seen such a panorama of history, and he has seen many righteous people
destroyed because of the wickedness of others. It is possible to live among wickedness
and not partake, but proximity has its risks.
Before Nephi expressed fear concerning his brothers he was a young, single man. Young
single men tend to have great self-confidence and believe that risks are dangerous
for others, not for them. But now he has advanced to the state of a married man,
with a wife and children. Such a man is a provider and protector, and, in confronting
his brothers, he is fulfilling that role.
It is a frightening experience for Nephi to be on a boat with people who are heedless
and unthankful of the Lord’s guidance and protection. It is likewise a sobering experience
to see our ship of state listing, leaking, and being bombasted by the storm.
1 Nephi 18:11
Unto the fulfilling of His word
The Book of Mormon gives an example
of someone not complaining against God during severe trials
And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and
they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless,
the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power,
unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked.
I do not know which word of the Lord concerning the wicked Nephi is referring to.
There is nothing obvious about the words he or his father have previously received
that would be applicable, and there is the whole Old Testament from which to draw
Nephi narrates what happened. He narrates some of his own feelings, and the feelings
of others. And he is careful to note his attitude toward the Lord. He does not
“charge God foolishly” (Job 1:22). Although God has delivered him many times, Nephi
does not expect to avoid all the consequences of wicked people. He doesn’t take
for granted God’s protection and care, and when it doesn’t seem evident, Nephi understands
that God is still there, but for His higher purposes He allows the suffering to occur.
1 Nephi 18:12
The compass did cease to work
The Book of Mormon shows how wickedness prevents progress
And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move,
the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work.
As readers, we’re quite aware that the ball or compass had been prepared by the Lord.
Nephi doesn’t want us to take this compass for granted and forget where it came from,
as apparently his brothers had done.
What happens next is a direct example of Doctrine & Covenants 130:20,21: “There
is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the earth upon which
all blessings are predicated. And when we receive any blessing from God, it is by
obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” The Lord had previously defined
the law of the Liahona: It works according to the faith and diligence and heed which
are given unto it. Now that Nephi could not exercise his faith and diligence and
heed, due to being physically prevented from freely functioning, the compass no longer
works. When it worked it should have been a reason to marvel; now that it’s stopped
working, that, too, is a testimony of God’s work.
1 Nephi 18:15
The judgments of God were upon them
The Book of Mormon shows
that some people will choose the right only when threatened with destruction
And it came to pass
that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea.
And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days,
my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them,
and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore,
they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrist, and behold they
had swollen exceedingly;
and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof.
Laman and Lemuel have passed a judgment on Nephi, and decided in their wisdom to
end his free movement by binding him painfully tight. How they would like to believe
that their judgments are always correct, that they are always right. How they would
like to believe that even God agrees with their reasoning. It takes four frightening
days of tempest to convince them, at least momentarily, to give up this delusion
and recognize that the judgments of God are pointing at them.
It is well at this point to recall why they have tied Nephi up. It is because he
chastised them for their behavior. He used words of persuasion, words of indictment
for breaking God’s commandments. They have responded to words with violence. This
is a trend we’re seeing in our world today: Impose harsh penalties against those
who preach against sodomy, behead those who speak against the prophet.
1 Nephi 18:16
I did look unto my God
The Book of Mormon shows us to praise God all day long,
even during severe adversity
Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long;
and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.
Throughout the Book of Mormon, many ideas are expressed in triplets, and this is
one of so many cases. If this had been written by a Western writer, the order would
probably have been reversed to provide a crescendo of ideas, but in Hebrew tradition
the most important idea is often placed first, with the other ideas being support
Nephi provides us a succinct and universal formula for facing difficulties: Look
to God, praise God, and do not murmur against the Lord.
Look to God for understanding, either of the specific trial or to renew an over-all
perspective of mortality, as Nephi does in verse 11.
Praise God – thank Him for blessings. Whatever the trial is, it cannot overshadow
the other blessings in one’s life. For one who knows God, there are always blessings
to recognize. (There are blessings for those who do not know God, also, but they
will have a harder time recognizing them.)
Do not murmur against the Lord, and do not complain in general. It’s all one. Complaining
is counter-productive to every enterprise. It’s a pause in progress, which makes
the subsequent journey unpleasant. It’s a pause devoid of refreshment. It’s like
hikers struggling through thorns, and deciding to take a break by wallowing in a
stinky swamp. When they get back on the trail, the thorns are still there, they’ve
lost time, and they have no good memories to show for it.
1 Nephi 18:18
Their grief and sorry
The Book of Mormon shows the debilitating effect of sin upon family members
Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren,
they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God;
yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust;
yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave.
Here is another triplet graphically portraying what it means to die: meet God, lie
in the dust, and (in this particular case) receive a watery grave. Meeting God is
most important: it’s what the spirit does. The body is left behind to lie in the
dust or wash about in the sea. Grief, sorrow, and iniquity are threatening to bring
about the deaths of Nephi’s parents, and death is the ultimate grief and sorrow,
particularly in the case of iniquity.
1 Nephi 18:20
Nothing save the power of God
The Book of Mormon shows how determined some people are
to ignore messages of goodness and peace from God
And there was nothing save it were the power of God,
which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts;
wherefore, when they saw
that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea
they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me.
In chapters 3-5, Nephi presented the case where he of necessity and justice killed
Laban. He is now presenting the case where the Lord of necessity and justice indicates
that the next step is to kill Laman and Lemuel, and those with them.
This theme is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament, the New
Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, and always when God interacts with His children,
at least in all the records we have, because we have such scanty records of righteous
groups. The scriptural records we have been given match our times and our needs.
Nephi points out that the time of words is past. The words of his wife and children
were of no avail. Laman and Lemuel have rejected Nephi’s words to the extent that
they want to permanently silence him. They have likewise rejected the words of anyone
who speaks for him, and similarly threaten them. Even the words of their own parents
fall on deaf ears. Nephi emphasizes that the threat of their parents being “cast
with sorrow into a watery grave” does not move the brothers; only the threat that
“they [themselves] were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” is sufficient
to move them to repentance. They have descended past the point of learning from
and responding to words, of filial piety, of human kindness.
In this mortal school the Lord speaks to us in many ways, as described in Doctrine
& Covenants 43:25. “How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants,
and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings,
and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of
earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of
every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and
by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of
eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would
1 Nephi 18:21
I took the compass, and it did work
The Book of Mormon shows
how God respects the word and desires of His servants
And it came to pass after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass,
and it did work whither I desired it.
And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord;
and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease,
and there was a great calm.
Like the disciples to come, Nephi cried unto the Lord in the midst of the storm.
But unlike those later disciples he prayed with that same faith that he had exercised
during the ordeal, and when he took the compass in his hands, and not in frantic
desperation. The result was the same. In a beautiful foreshadowing of the miracle
that He would perform on the Sea of Galilee, the Lord respected Nephi’s plea, and
the wind and storm ceased, and there was a great calm.