go and do
Scheduled for study Jan. 6-12, 2020. As we study the “things of God” found in these chapters, consider what teachings they contain that each of us should “go and do.”

Day 1

1 Nephi 1-6 – The scriptures are of great worth.

Nephi recorded the “things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). As you study Nephi’s record, pay attention to the things of God you find, especially impressions from the Spirit.

The main question today is about “why the word of God is of great worth.” I’d like to first look at an example from the verses we read for today then look at lessons learned from this lesson.

How many chances did the Lord give Laban to give his family record (the brass plates) to Lehi’s family? This is actually a trick question. We are only told about Laman’s efforts to obtain the plates by negotiation then all of them trying to buy the plates with their family’s property. But somewhere in their conversations with Laban they had to have told him they were commanded by God to get the plates, because Laban’s unwillingness to obey the commandment of God was one of the reasons Nephi gave when weighing whether he should follow through with the Spirit’s command to kill Laban (1 Nephi 4:11).

Laban qualified for death for multiple reasons based on the law of Moses. The Lord has always maintained that as long as his people don’t give either the first, nor the second offense, when they are attacked again they are justified before him in killing in order to save their families. In this case, Laban had tried to kill them twice already, and had stolen all their worldly wealth. Nephi had already sworn that he would not return home until he had fulfilled the Lord’s commandment to get the plates. Since it was not physically possible for them to get the plates from this powerful man, the Lord “delivered” Laban to face justice at the hands of His servant.

Why do you think it is better that “one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief“?

This is an example of what the word of God does best – address universal needs and concerns. Who lives and who dies, and for what reasons, is a human question that is important for the whole of God’s family. And note the Spirit’s comments to Nephi in 1 Nephi 4:13 – “Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.”

This verse teaches us that the Lord doesn’t necessarily think of death in the same way we do. As the judge of all, He always knows when it is needed, and when it is merciful to move his children from mortality to the spirit world. For God, our lives are like viewing a house from above that has several rooms. Moving one child from room A into room B is just a transition from one place to the next. We who are in room A cannot see room B, and know very little about what goes on in there, so that room is a little scary for us. Nor can we see the room we were in before we entered room A, so our current situation becomes our “all in all.” We have to remember that the Lord’s wisdom encompasses more than just where we currently are in mortality. The laws about life and death we live by were given by Him for our benefit. His wisdom far exceeds our limited understanding of when and how someone should die.

Lessons learned from the lesson

The scriptures are a collection of life lessons experienced over the course of hundreds of generations by prophets of God and His people. The Lord has collected these experiences and instructed His prophets to record them for future generations. These lessons are learning tools. They teach us perspective, doctrine, and give us understanding of what the Lord expects of us. From the story of Nephi and Laban there are many lessons that can be extracted that we haven’t even touched upon, but someone who has had certain experiences will see them right away. What we see in, and learn from, the scriptures largely depends on our life preparation prior to opening and reading verses that will be teaching us.

The lesson from the lessons learned

All of this, like the layers of an onion lead us to learn that scriptures are a way for the Lord to connect us with the Holy Spirit. There are obvious lessons in the stories related in the scriptures. But there are also lessons spawned by the Spirit touching our understanding and opening our spiritual eyes to see things we couldn’t see before. Many of our own life experiences will be turned into learning experiences through the Spirit teaching us that will make these experiences a sort of personal scripture to us and us alone.

The scriptures teach us just like the parables are meant to teach us. The more we study them, the more prepared we are to listen to and follow the Spirit, the more likely we are to gain something new from studying the scriptures. This makes every reading a new experience. Having the Spirit with us when we study our scriptures is a powerful way to be taught spiritual truths on a personal level. There were thousands of experiences the prophets had that never made it into our scriptures. The Lord has given us just those things He knows we need at this time. In the future, when we are more fully using the Book of Mormon as He wants us to, we will receive the rest of the book Mormon wrote. For now, we need to seek to understand and live what we have.

Day 2

1 Nephi 1:7-15 – The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ.

Nephi recorded the “things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). As you study Nephi’s record, pay attention to the things of God you find, especially impressions from the Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but in all my years of reading 1 Nephi I have always jumped from “I Nephi being born of goodly parents” to Lehi being told in a dream to leave Jerusalem because it was going to be destroyed. I was surprised this time when the manual points out that “true to the purpose stated on its title page – to convince all that Jesus is the Christ – the Book of Mormon opens with Lehi’s remarkable vision of the Savior.” My first thought was, “What? Lehi sees the Savior in the first chapter?” Yup.

In 1 Nephi 1:9 Lehi’s first recorded vision is about the Savior. Mind you it doesn’t name him as such, but read this verse and see what you think.

And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.

That is a classic description of Jesus in all his glory. Joseph Smith described him the same way, as brighter than the noon-day sun. In his vision of Christ and presumably his apostles, Jesus comes to Lehi and gives him a book to read. As Lehi reads the book he is filled with the Spirit. As the Spirit opens the eyes of his understanding to spiritual truths, Lehi is compelled (by joy, excitement, gratitude, or something else) to exclaim praises to God.

The manual asks us the question what “great and marvelous” things the Lord has done in our lives. Note that one rarely feels an urge to acknowledge the things God has done for us in our lives unless we feel a profound sense of gratitude or wonder and His involvement in our lives. Later on in the Book of Mormon a prophet will ask if we are able now to sing the song of redeeming love as we once were able to. If you have ever felt to sing God’s praises for all the great and marvelous things He has done in your life, are you able to do so now? What are they? Can you list even a few things He has done for you, and feel that gratitude deep down in your soul?

Day 3

1 Nephi 2 – When I seek and trust the Lord, He can soften my heart.

Nephi recorded the “things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). As you study Nephi’s record, pay attention to the things of God you find, especially impressions from the Spirit.

We all receive revelation in a way that speaks to us. Lehi received most of his revelations through dreams. For most people, dreams are not real – just imagination. This made it very difficult for Lehi’s sons, Laman and Lemuel to accept what Lehi told them as valid. It wasn’t just that. Laman and Lemuel were of marrying age, and their father was wealthy. They had much to look forward to in the next few years as they anticipated their father’s death from old age. They would have comfortable lives in the capital of their nation. Laman and Lemuel identified themselves with the culture in Jerusalem. Having their father drag them out into the middle of the desert to flee from some non-existent imminent destruction was just plain foolishness to them.

For Laman and Lemuel, what was happening with their father had nothing to do with God, but everything to do with Lehi being a crazy old man. They were not spiritually-minded men. They were men of the world. They had no interest in seeking to know the ways and the will of God. These two were very happy with their life back in Jerusalem. As educated sons of a prominent businessman, they could see no reason for abandoning their wealth and their social position when, for all they could see, the direction of their lives was only pointing upward.

Nephi, on the other hand, was much younger. Let’s imagine Nephi as being one of those young teens of 14 or 15 years of age, but who look like a buff 24 year old. Nephi seems to be close to his father, Lehi, but even he had difficulty with this move out into the desert. Nephi has a quality similar to Abraham. The scriptures tell us that the reason Abraham was so richly blessed by God is that he diligently sought for the blessings of the priesthood held by his ancestors. See Abraham 1:2.

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

Nephi demonstrates this same basic desire to be blessed by God. In 1 Nephi 2:16 Nephi tells us about his struggle to believe his father’s vision and commandments. He didn’t just accept his father’s word. Nephi wanted to know for himself that what his father was doing was what the Lord wanted, so he went and asked the Lord, expecting an answer. This is where Nephi separates himself from his brothers.

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

Nephi believed in the happiness that comes from seeking the will of the Lord, Laman and Lemuel did not. So when Nephi went to the Lord to ask for help accepting his father’s commandments to flee Jerusalem, the Lord answered Nephi’s prayers with the peace that comes with submission to His will. I believe it is this difference in attitude that separates the Lamans of the world from the Nephies of the world.

We would each do well to consider where we stand in this regard. When we are told by our Church leaders we need to do something we consider “hard,” do we harden our heart by refusing to turn to the Lord and resent the direction we have been given? Or do we, like Nephi, go to the Lord and seek understanding and peace so the Lord can soften our heart and help us find the courage to do that which we find difficult to do?

The Lord cannot soften a heart that is not offered to Him. We must be the one to go before His throne and ask for help before He is able to change any part of us. We cannot change our disposition, our heart, but He can. We must first be willing to submit ourselves to His will and plead for the change to take place. Only then can we receive the ability to face with peace what was so difficult for us before.

Day 4

1 Nephi 3-4 – God will prepare a way for me to do His will.

Nephi recorded the “things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). As you study Nephi’s record, pay attention to the things of God you find, especially impressions from the Spirit.

In a way, Laman and Lemuel’s comment that the Lord had required “a hard thing,” is kind of funny. They were whining and complaining because it was hard, so we look at Nephi’s “I will go and do” comment and think, “What a couple of marshmallows – powder puffs!” But what the Lord required of them actually was a hard thing. Yes, that’s the funny part. It was indeed a hard thing. The Lord knew what was going to happen. He knew it was going to require everything Nephi had within himself to fulfill this commandment, but He also knew that it was 100% possible for the sons of Lehi to accomplish this task. That is the whole reason He sent them back to Jerusalem.

This is where the difference in attitude comes in. The rebelling brothers whined about the difficulty because they had no faith they could accomplish the task the Lord had given them. Because they had no faith, which requires action based on a hope of success, they were not able to complete the assignment. Nephi and Sam believed the Lord could, and would open doors for them as they exercised their faith. The task was not made any easier for Nephi just because he did not complain. It was still just as hard as Laman and Lemuel thought it was. The difference was that to the two brothers it was impossible, but to Nephi it was difficult, but obtainable. The only thing that made this task any easier was Nephi’s determination to keep at it until he achieved success, and his willingness to rely on the Lord for direction.

Sometimes when the Lord sends us a difficult task it looks like we failed when we don’t achieve the apparent goal of the task. But it is not at all unusual for us to be given tasks for which the Lord only needs to see that we are faithful and obedient. His end goal may be years down the road, but by telling us to go and accomplish something He knows we won’t be successful in achieving, what is the point? The point is that we may not give it our all if He tells us that we are only laying groundwork for something someone else will eventually accomplish. But that groundwork is every bit as important as the final end result. He is looking at what we have achieved in the way of development and increased faith. We are still blindly looking only at the end goal and seeing failure.

The prophets have stated several times that when we are on the Lord’s errand and we do all in our power to accomplish what we have been tasked to do, there is no such thing as failure. The Lord is omnipotent. When He commands it is done. So when he sends us off on an assignment or calling, and we have done all within our power to be faithful and diligent in our responsibilities, have faith that even if we think we have not achieved what we think is the end goal, we have still achieved success. The Lord is not finished with us yet. We are all works in progress. No one task is an end in and of itself. If we have been diligent and faithful and the final goal is still not complete then He will provide another way or another time for it to happen. If the Lord wills it to be done, you can be assured it will be done.

Good examples of this principle are all around us. Look at parents who have children who have gone astray. The parents are good covenant-keeping people who do everything they can think of to do to save their children and direct them back onto the path of righteousness, but seem to be losing the battle. What they need to rely on is that the Lord has promised us all that he will set all things right before we move on to the rest of eternity. We just need to be patient for the Lord to do His work and retrieve our children. If anyone can save a wayward soul it is the Lord. What we need to not do is to play judge and jury and tell the Lord what is not possible, like Laman and Lemuel. The faith of Nephi is what is required in these instances. We need to have confidence that the Lord will find a way, somewhere, somehow. If it can be done at all, the Lord will know how to do it. This is what we put our faith in.

Day 5

1 Nephi 4:1-3; 5:1-8; 7:6-21 – Remembering the works of God can give me the faith to obey His commandments.

Nephi recorded the “things of God” (1 Nephi 6:3). As you study Nephi’s record, pay attention to the things of God you find, especially impressions from the Spirit.

Have you ever been in a really thick fog? Sometimes the fog is so heavy you can’t see the front end of your car when sitting in the driver’s seat. It is easy to get turned around and lost, or to run into things when you can’t see where you are going. Life can fog up, making choices difficult to make or resolve difficult to maintain. This is why remembering is so important.

When the four brothers met with failure after failure in their attempts to retrieve the brass plates, they became discouraged. It would be easy at a time such as that to become spiritually lost. Nothing was working out as they thought it would. They couldn’t see three feet in front of them, and they became very uncertain of their own abilities, and even of the possibility of success in their mission.

Nephi helped them to see that though they were still in a fog, they were on the right path. Remember Moses and what happened to him? How often does remembering past success stories help us to see that the fog is not a wall and can be walked through. As long as we are doing what the Lord has directed us to do, we can continue. This is how we exercise faith. Sometimes we just need reminders that what appears to be unattainable is actually very doable. We just have to look back on the successes of the past.

The interesting thing about spiritual fog is that it exists only in front of us, not behind us. So use what you can remember, what you have experienced before, to define your path forward. Eventually the fog will thin and you will see your way made more clearly.

Improving Our Teaching

Study the scriptures consistently.

Periodic reading in the scriptures produce only mediocre results at best. What really produces great results from reading scriptures is when we read them on a regular basis. And don’t stop there, but include referencing those scriptures in the days after you have read them. Think of the power of a parent to teach a child the importance of an eternal principle or of something that will help them in their life if the child is reminded of something they studied. It would need to happen something like the following.  Suppose you read your scriptures today, like you do every day. And while you are at the market you see a teaching moment that relates to something you recently studied, so you bring it up to your children. You have just demonstrated that not only is it important to read the scriptures, but that you are a person who looks for ways in your life to have the scriptures guide your behavior and your thinking.

Scripture reading can’t be just an intellectual thing. If we try to keep it on an intellectual basis most of us will quickly tire of the exercise, for it will produce no change in us. The excitement of studying the scriptures comes when we realize that their study is changing the way we perceive life around us, and in our attitudes. When we identify these benefits, these very personal benefits to our family members or friends, we have an impact on them as the scriptures have had an impact on us. Seeing and identifying that the scriptures really do relate to real life makes them more exciting to study and talk about.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 02