Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Death of Lehi -- 2 Nephi 4

What Happens
"Lehi counsels and blesses his posterity—He dies and is buried—Nephi glories in the goodness of God—Nephi puts his trust in the Lord forever."
2 Nephi 4 Chapter Heading


Commentary

In our last episode, we were learning about the prophecies of Joseph of Egypt, and how they applied to Nephi's time, and also our time.  The chapter starts out talking about how important those prophecies are, and then we get back to the blessings that Lehi is leaving upon his posterity before he dies.  He starts with the sons and daughters of Laman.

In verse 4, he mentions a basic truth.  "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence."  This is pretty fundamental, but it is hard to always see clearly, because sometimes we, and others that we observe, seem to prosper when we aren't keeping the commandments.   The consequence listed here isn't not prospering wealth-wise though.  It is being cut off from God spiritually.  I think that also makes it a lot harder to prosper in a lot of other ways, but that spiritual lack is a constant presence, and although we can, and do, try to fill the hole with something else, the only thing that works is God.  No amount of money, power, fame, or obsession-fulfillment can make up for that loss.

In verses 5-7, Lehi tells the sons and daughters of Laman (and later also the sons and daughters of Lemuel) that if they are cursed (which he has seen in a vision), that the cursing will be answered upon the heads of their parents.  He knows that if they were brought up to follow God and not to hate, that they would do the right things, but since he knows that isn't going to happen, he works to try to ameliorate the damage.  This makes me wonder what God thinks, looking out at the world.  ... And of our *huge* responsibility as lights in the world, to set a good example.  How many in the world are lost from God just because they haven't had that example and help in their lives of something they truly admire and want to emulate?

In verse 12, Lehi dies, and in verse 13, Laman and Lemuel are angry because of Nephi's preaching.  The anger is pretty par for the course in our story, of course, but because of Lehi's death, it has a special significance.  It is the beginning of a permanent rift that stretches over an entire nation.  It makes you think about how important family unity is, although of course it isn't always avoidable.  I'm sure that Lehi did everything he could to solve this particular issue, but Laman and Lemuel had to be free to make their own choices.

I love Nephi saying that his "soul delighteth in the scriptures" (Verse 15).  That seems like something that all of us should probably do a lot more of.  The more we ponder and delight in God's word, the more it will become a part of us... there whenever we need advice, or comfort.  Since the spirit can bring all things to our remembrance, if we have those scriptures inside us, the Lord can easily speak to us, reminding us of the scriptures that are particularly applicable to our current circumstances.

Nephi, in verse 19 says something that we can probably all relate to: "when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins."  I like that we see the humanity of prophets, especially Nephi.  His life wasn't easy, for sure, and he shows us here and elsewhere that he wasn't perfect, but he was also a truly amazing man and a prophet of God.  To me, I think that it offers hope.  We also are not perfect, and our souls groan when we would desire to rejoice sometimes as well, because we so easily turn to temptation and sin.  But that didn't stop Nephi from continuing to try, and working to overcome his weaknesses.  It didn't stop him from having a relationship with God and being faithful... and it doesn't have to stop us.  We, too, can overcome our weaknesses, and become great people, with God's help.

In verse 28, Nephi continues his internal monologue/prayer by saying "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul."  This particular verse strikes me because it makes it clear what we are doing when we sin... we're basically opening up the doors and letting the bad guys in.  It also mentions awaking and rejoicing... some important things we can do to fight Satan's influence... breaking out of the zombie state where we're just going through the motions, and really thinking about our choices and what we want... and finding positive things around us, and tapping into the joy of life rather than the despair.

Nephi ends his prayer in verse 35, saying "God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss."  I like that part because it mentions prayer and asking, which are huge throughout the scriptures, and important in our lives as well as in Nephi's, but also because he mentions asking not amiss.  We have to really apply ourselves to prayers and requests with God, not just throw wishes up like they don't matter.  God is really listening, and asking for the wrong things will either mess up our lives because we actually get them, or mess up our connection with the spirit because we're asking for something that is clearly bad for us and/or the people around us.  It's a good reminder that God wants to bless us abundantly, but we need to make sure we ask for good things.

Tune in next time for the family rift going to the next level.