Sunday, June 11, 2017

Spiritual Technology and Sibling Strife -- 1 Nephi Chapter 16

What Happens 
"The wicked take the truth to be hard—Lehi’s sons marry the daughters of Ishmael—The Liahona guides their course in the wilderness—Messages from the Lord are written on the Liahona from time to time—Ishmael dies; his family murmurs because of afflictions."
1 Nephi 16 Chapter Heading


Commentary
In our last episode, Nephi was explaining Lehi's vision to his brothers.  And in the beginning of this chapter, they tell him that the things that he said were pretty harsh, and they are having trouble processing it.  Nephi admits that to the wicked, it seems that way, and encourages them to be good.  And, amazingly, in verse 5 "they did humble themselves before the Lord."  Nephi has joy and great hopes for them... and we would too, except unfortunately, it doesn't even last the whole chapter.

Nephi, his brothers, and Zoram all get married to the daughters of Ishmael.  I wonder if it was like a big group wedding, or if this is just a summary of what happened over time.  Also, I know we talked about this a couple of chapters ago, but it still kind of blows my mind how Nephi has already seen his posterity rise and fall and all but a few that were mixed in with the Lamanites get destroyed... and *then* he goes to get married.  Hopefully it was just kind of an overall thing with no close-ups on his direct line, but still... that's a lot of pressure and a lot of background sorrow to throw into a relationship.  Of course, on the other hand, it could have also given him a lot of confidence about near-term tragedy.  If his descendants were going to perish eventually in the promised land, that means that he could trust that they were going to get there, and that a lot of the set-backs that they faced in these early stages were all going to be things that they could overcome.  I mean, he probably had that much faith already, but it can't hurt to have seen a vision of where you are going, and know that you made it. :)

After everyone gets married, God tells Lehi to get back on the road, and that is when he discovers the Liahona at his tent door, which is a round ball "of curious workmanship" (verse 10).  It points the way that they should go, so we often think of it as though it were a compass.  However, we learn later in the chapter that writing can appear on the ball (verse 26), and that the pointers work according to faith and diligence and heed (verse 28).  So, clearly, it is much, much more than a normal compass.  In one way perhaps a spiritual compass, but also kind of like texts from God, right?  It's spiritual technology that we don't have and don't understand even today, and it is very much more complex than many other miracles that we see in the scriptures.  I really like the idea of the Liahona, because, like so much else in the gospel, you have to be in tune with the spirit to even be able to use it.  Sometimes, obviously, that is frustrating when we aren't in tune, but things like that are fabulous reminder to us when we get off track, and simple ways to tell if we are going astray.

Lehi's family gathers provisions and seeds, and they head out again.  They stop every now and then to hunt for food, and then continue.  But one day, Nephi's bow breaks, and suddenly the drama hits.  Understandable, of course, because it's hard to be hungry especially after travelling for so long, but still kind of a crisis of faith for the little group.  Once again, Nephi saves the day by helping everyone focus on looking to God for the answer... but not only that.  He also works for it as well, making a bow out of wood, and going to his father to ask where to go.  I like that part because it focused on his father's responsibility and authority as their prophet-leader.  Nephi goes to where the Liahona says to go, and brings back food. :)

Unfortunately, the next crisis is a bit more harsh.  Ishmael dies, and the power balance of the group shifts again, so much so that Laman is bold enough again to suggest "Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi" (verse 37).  Luckily, the voice of the Lord comes and puts a stop to the murder plot, and they repent once again, and God is able to bless them again with food.  If it were me though, I would be getting a little wary of the theme of murder popping up so often.  Kind of creepy to hang out with someone who has threatened to kill you so often.  Spoiler for those of you who are worried though: don't worry.  Nephi lives. :)

Tune in next time to read about Nephi building a ship.

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