Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nephi's Test -- 1 Nephi Chapter 4

What Happens

"Nephi slays Laban at the Lord’s command and then secures the plates of brass by stratagem—Zoram chooses to join Lehi’s family in the wilderness."
1 Nephi 4 Chapter Heading


So, building up to this chapter, Nephi really lays his faith on the line.  He tells his father that God will make a way, and he convinces his brothers twice to stay instead of fleeing, even though someone is trying to kill them.  Until now, his faith has kept them here, but he still doesn't know how he is going to do what God asks.  And then, here in this chapter, he finds out what the Lord requires of him in order to fulfill his task.  And he finds out that the Lord wants him to kill someone.

That's not an easy thing.  Times were different, given, but that's one of the basics: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13).  His whole family is running from Jerusalem because people are trying to kill their father, Laban has just tried to kill them... some of this had to pass through Nephi's mind.  God is asking him to do a really, really hard thing, with a lot of scary consequences.  In our lives, as we are learning to recognize the spirit, if we got a message like that we would instantly think it *wasn't* from God, right?  We try to learn the difference between our internal voice and God's voice to some extent by the fact that God never tells us to do anything crazy or stupid.  And yet, here Nephi is, being "led by the Spirit," according to his faith and his prayers, and everything he has committed to thus far, and he is tested by this gigantic choice.

The parallel that comes to mind as I read about Nephi in this chapter is the life of Christ, leading up to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Just as Christ says that he "would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink," Nephi also states "And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him."  I'm not saying that Nephi suffered as Christ did... just that God seems to stretch us all to do things that we don't want to do.  ... Not because he enjoys torturing us like bugs on the sidewalk, but because it teaches us what really matters, and shows us that our commitment to God is deeper than anything else... and even though it isn't fun at all, we need that, and need to know that, in order to become truly converted on the deepest level.

So, Nephi struggles with the choice, but in the end, he does kill Laban, and through his disguise is able to obtain the plates.  Now, of course, boys and girls, please don't try this at home.  Nephi's experience was unique, and like Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, or Christ sacrificing his own life, or even Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, there are things that have been done by others that we don't need to emulate exactly in our own lives.  The idea here is faith, trust, truly listening to and understanding the spirit, commitment to the Lord, etc.--not cutting people's heads off.  I always thought that this was an interesting story to have so early in the Book of Mormon as well.  It wasn't only a test for Nephi, but it is also a test for the reader in a way.  Can we accept that the Lord asks hard, even seemingly impossible things?  Can we begin to see God's perspective in the story?

I'm impressed with Nephi that he talks rather than kills Zoram in a situation that could have been devastating to his whole family... that what the spirit asked him to do didn't make him into someone who would also kill Zoram.  Zoram impresses me as well.  We have Nephi's words to explain to us what was going on in his head as he made his hard choice, but we can only imagine what Zoram was thinking.  We know he was about to flee when Nephi grabbed him.  And we know that he agreed to go with them and stay with them, but how scary would that have been?  Someone kills your boss and then just casually asks you to cover it up and go along with them?  But Zoram, listening to the Spirit, believes Nephi and he gives his word, and keeps it, and that alone is pretty miraculous, under the circumstances.

Lehi's boys have been gone quite a while accomplishing their task.  Tune in next time as we read about what happens when they get back to camp.

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