prepare the way
Week 05 is scheduled for study Jan. 29 – Feb. 4, 2024. If there weren’t trials for us to overcome then the Lord would have no reason to prepare the way before us. This week is a great time to discuss trials, their purposes and advantages.

Day 1

1 Nephi 16-18 – The Savior will help me face life’s challenges.

The manual lists a number of things we might do to study for today’s lesson. Rarely does the manual include so many resources and specific scriptures about trials and overcoming them. This caused me to stop and do some pondering. I hope you read the opening paragraph of the lesson before you jumped into today’s lesson. That opening paragraph has some great material for pondering in it.

I wonder if Lehi’s exodus from Jerusalem to the land of promise can be justly compared with Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. Here is a surface comparison of the two events. (Sorry if it is a little long, but I think it is needed to make the point.)

Moses

Was an ostracized prince of Egypt, because he sided with the slaves, the people of his blood, instead of with the Pharaoh and his oppressive rule.

God commanded him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, but the people didn’t trust him or know him well. They resisted him every step of the way.

Moses, with the help of his brother Aaron, stood up to Pharaoh, the man with or by whom he had been raised. Pharaoh was his former family member. He was no longer welcome among the family of his upbringing. Must have been very uncomfortable. I am assuming it is this connection that prevented anyone from simply arresting him and putting him to death for his role with the Israelites.

To Pharaoh, Moses was responsible for the death and destruction Egypt experienced. Pharaoh refused to accept that it was Moses’s God who was actually doing these things to him and his country.

Moses took the people out of the country only to be trapped between the oncoming armies of Pharaoh on one side and the sea on the other. God provided yet another miracle and parted the waters to allow them passage to the other side. He had to watch while his former family member, and or his army, drowned in the Red Sea for his fight against God.

Moses had to face rebellion after rebellion for 40 years as the Lord killed the original generation of Israelites so the next generation, free from the taint of life in Egypt was ready to enter the promised land.

Moses couldn’t have done any of this on his own. The Lord had to walk him through each step, giving Moses the encouragement he needed and the direction required to accomplish each challenge he faced along the way. All of which challenges were new and unprecedented in human history.

Lehi

He was called to warn the people in a dream. We don’t know if he had always had dreams of this kind or if we are coming into his story when the dreams started. We only know that he was a visionary man. His eldest sons obviously had problems with his dreams. They didn’t believe the contents of Lehi’s dreams. Laman and Lemuel were young men about town. They were fully vested in the lifestyle of the Jerusalem of their day. Jerusalem taught that they were a righteous people, because they kept the law of Moses, but they couldn’t accept that they were corrupted from the inside out and about to be destroyed for their wicked ways. And that, despite their outward obedience to the law Moses.

The people of Jerusalem sought to kill Lehi. Fleeing with his family was the only way to stay alive.

Lehi had to leave behind all of his possessions. He was commanded to do so. Because Laban coveted his possessions enough to want to kill Lehi’s sons to obtain them, Lehi must have been a very wealthy man. Lehi’s oldest sons resented their father for abandoning their entire inheritance over a dream they didn’t believe in in the first place.

There was a lot of infighting among the family members. Rebellion after rebellion makes up the story of Lehi and his family. If the eldest sons didn’t want to kill just Nephi then they wanted to kill both Nephi and their father. They were so near the edge of total rejection of all that God stood for that being chastised by an angel and hearing the voice of God, Himself several times did not convert them. All those experiences did was to subdue them for long enough to get to the promised land and Lehi’s death. After that they roundly rejected all that Lehi had taught them. From that time on they taught their family members to hate the Nephites and to kill them at every chance.

It took 9 years of traveling through the more fertile parts of one of the most hostile deserts in the world, eating only raw meat, to finally arrive at the place they called Bountiful, because there were fruits and honey there. Then the Lord commanded them to build a ship. None of them knew anything about ship building. They had no specialized tools required to build a ship, and had to rely on Nephi’s constant revelations and visions to get the job done. No doubt it took a year or more to craft such a vessel large enough to carry their growing tribe across the seas to the land of promise. And of course there was the usual family drama of the disobedient elder brothers wanting to kill Nephi and not help him with the ship. Lehi’s family was deeply divided in its loyalties. This must have brought great heartache to Lehi and Sariah.

After all the miracles they had experienced along the way to Bountiful they now had built a ship unlike anything made by man before. It’s design was revealed to Nephi by God. Now, out in the middle of the sea the elder brothers rebel once again and tie Nephi to the mast of the ship. The compass stops working and a great storm threatens to capsize their boat and kill them all. For days they fought giving in and admitting that they needed to release Nephi. Only the ultimate threat of imminent death drove them to finally release him. So they did it not because they repented of their sin, but out of self preservation.

The comparison

Both Moses and Lehi were promised great things by God. Both were being led to a promised land, yet both had nothing but hardships along the way. Only the peace that surpasses all understanding, that peace that comes only from God was able to give them the strength to carry on in the face of such adversities. Both men faced challenges unknown to anyone around them at the time God called upon them to fulfill His work. Revelation was required all along the way. But despite all those challenges, the tears, the fears, the doubts, and the personal moments of despair, they were able to accomplish what the Lord had tasked them to do. Small wonder they both praised the Lord so openly at their journey’s end. They could plainly see His hand in every step of their journey, and along the way the Lord had shown them the future of their people and what part their labors were playing in His work for His children. Both prophets were grateful the Lord trusted them enough to let them fulfil their roles in His plan.

None of us have to do what Moses or Lehi had to do. But all of us face our own trials and times of sorrow that make us feel like we have been abandoned and deserted by all our supports. The Lord needs us to individually get to this point of vulnerability so He can demonstrate to us that He never actually leaves us completely alone. When all the world walks away from us or drives us away, God is always there by our side. Life may not always be really hard, but sometimes we need it to be so we have to turn to the Lord for the support we can’t get anywhere else. These lessons in dependence on God’s support are important ones for each of us to learn.

This is my take on today’s topic. After you have looked up all the scriptural references, read through or listened to the talks, seen the videos, and have contemplated the challenges the manual gives us, what is your take on today’s topic?

Day 2

1 Nephi 16:10-16, 23-31; 18:11-22 – God guides me through small and simple means.

Over and over again the Lord gives us small things that over time turn out to be big things. Lehi received a compass, the Liahona. I find it interesting that Nephi tells us specifically that there were two spindles, and that both of them worked according to the faith and diligence Lehi’s family gave to their direction. Yet Nephi only tells us that one of the spindles pointed in the direction they should go. He never does tell us what the other spindle was for. But that observation has nothing to do with today’s lesson. Sorry.

We may not get an actual Liahona like Lehi got, but the Lord does provide us with small and simple means whereby we can determine the direction of our life. Our Patriarchal blessings can give us general guidelines for our life. We can get a priesthood blessing, or many of them as we strive to find our way in life. The Lord often provides us with circumstances that either challenge us or confirm to us what we have already learned or decided. We just have to be paying attention to what is going on around us to see these lessons. Nephi told his brothers at one point that the Lord had tried to talk to them, but they were past feeling, so they could not feel His words. It is up to each of us to sensitize our self so that we can hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost. He tries to talk to us, but if we have chosen willfulness over obedience and humility then we may not be able to hear what He would say to us.

Sometimes the Lord leads us through the ministrations of others. And they may not even be aware that the things they do or say are what we need at that moment in time. Our spouse or friend may tell us something they feel is important, or may be making just a passing statement. But that incidental thought may be what we need to hear. There are so many ways the Lord can participate in guiding us that it is difficult to name all of them. Personal sensitivity to the Spirit is the key in all these cases. He will help us identify what is needed and how to use what comes to us to guide us through life’s challenges.

And of course there are the words of the living prophets. Hopefully we are all reading and rereading Conference talks, devotional talks, etc. Many of the things you will find useful today were actually spoken by the leaders of the Church many years ago, perhaps even before you were born. Life’s lessons don’t change just because you belong to a different generation than your forefathers. Every life from Adam to the present day experience many of the same challenges, so don’t discount the older talks. Many of those talks given were warning of times 30-50 years or more in the future, though they still applied in their day.

Day 3

1 Nephi 17:1-6, 17-22 – My trials can be a blessing.

What is the purpose of trials? Are they just there because no one can prevent them, so we just have to struggle through them? Trials are trials because they are testing us in some way. They are far more than just a difficult experience. One of the greatest lessons we can learn in mortality is that our attitude and perspective make all the difference in how we react to what happens to us in life. When we feel put upon, intruded, forced, or inconvenienced unjustly then we tend to fight back, resist, feel offended, or get angry with life or people in our life. When we understand that the challenges we experience in life are lesson opportunities then we seek for ways to grow because of our challenges. We work to become closer to God, because He gives us comfort and support in our times of trial. Seeing the trials of life as opportunities for growth, we humble ourselves and submit to God’s will, seek His Spirit, and find joy in spiritual growth. This leads to personal and emotional growth as well.

Trials can’t be avoided, so learning how to face the trials that come, no matter how unfair they feel, can give us the grounds to grow and find peace in our soul. Read the comments from Paul and Joseph Smith who both reveled in adversity. They understood the power of adversity to help us grow and become better people, more godlike in our attitudes and in our humility. Adversity helps us come to rely upon and depend upon God. If we don’t learn to rely upon and depend upon Him then we will learn to resent Him for these same experiences. Our choice.

Day 4

1 Nephi 19:22-24; 20-22 – I can “liken all scriptures” to myself.

It is true that all scriptures happened in a time before our life on this planet. But that doesn’t mean those events have nothing to do with our current life. One of the lessons we all need to learn is that no one lives life in mortality without needing to learn the same lessons. All of us of all generations of time need to learn to appreciate those who came before us and the sacrifices they made for us. We all need to learn dependence on the Lord and patience in His timing. Every soul needs to learn humility and the ability to persevere through hard times as we seek to become more like Christ. There are situation-specific lessons to be learned in each time period, but the basics are universal to all generations.

Likening the scriptures is a skill that needs to be learned by each person. First we need to come to understand that though the specific situation is probably unique to that prophet or people, there are almost always comparisons to our current generation and how we handle like situations. The more we learn to put ourselves into the stories and lessons of the scriptures, the more personal those scriptures become, and the more valuable to us.

For example, has anyone threatened you this week with being thrown into a lion’s den or into a furnace heated seven times the normal temperature because you want to be faithful to your God? Most likely not. But you can probably think of the life lessons associated with those prophets and righteous people who suffered through those experiences and what you can personally do to pass through your own trials in this life. The more quickly we are able to take these extreme experiences and apply them to our current life, the better it will be for us.

Personal Study

Quiet reflection time

For today’s crowd, let’s put the emphasis on quiet. So many of us are accustomed to having earbuds in and music or podcasts playing that having actual quiet time where silence prevails is almost unheard of. (pun intended) The world has filled our lives with so much noise that the thought of having to sit quietly with our own thoughts is terrifying to many people. They honestly don’t know what will happen if they are left “alone” with their own thoughts. This is because they have never had the pleasure of being truly alone with no distractions.

The benefit of being in a quiet environment to think and to consider (ponder) a question is that there is no pressure to come up with an answer at that time. The whole point is that you are free to consider it and think about it from any and all perspectives that it occurs to you to think about. Once you start this process your brain and heart go to work and at some point in the future you will have some answers to consider further. Those answers will be there for you because while you are doing other things during your day and week, your mind and heart continue to think through what you pondered on during your quiet time. Your answer may come in the form of an opinion, an answer, a perspective about something related to it in your life at that time, or something entirely different. Everyone’s experience is slightly different.

I suggest you read How Do I Ponder? If you haven’t pondered before or need some practice at it, this is a good place to start. Pondering, having quiet reflection time is more valuable to each of us than any of us can imagine. Answers come from quiet reflection, as to revelation, testimony, and assurances from the Lord. If you have to start with just 5 grueling minutes at a time, do it. The more you learn to love being alone with your own thoughts, the closer you will become to the Spirit, and the happier you will be.

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BoM05-2024 – I Will Prepare the Way Before You