There are many Nephi’s and Lehi’s written of in the Book of Mormon- and I suppose the real celebrity status of the names is afforded to the original father-son duo of Jerusalem and the wilderness, who came across the seas to the promised land.
The Nephi I write to you about today is Alma [the younger’s] great grandson who, along with his brother confusingly named Lehi, was thrown into prison for appealing to the wicked to repent and believe in Jesus Christ who would come into the world.
I’ve never been to jail- hopefully this statement will always hold up for me- but I’d imagine the despair that accompanies the feeling of being stripped of ones freedom and basic rights. What fear, loneliness, dismay and doubt might creep into my heart should that ever happen. We know from the words recorded in Helaman that Nephi and Lehi were not treated with regard during their stint, and as the people became more and more enraged at the brothers’ existence, tensions ran rampant.
I think it was probably the brothers’ faith and calm that invoked the quiet assurance of the Lord Himself. In a critical moment where the townspeople sought their lives, Nephi and Lehi were encircled about by fire; a shield and protection. And then, in probably the most charged moment of pressure, unease and uncertainty for those young missionaries:
… there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying:
Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.
And now, when they heard this they cast their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them. (Hel 5: 46-48)
It’s clear that the boys had a special place in God’s esteem, and He cared for them.
Later in Helaman 10, as we follow Nephi’s ministry amongst the people, we learn that Nephi continues in faith and grows ever closer to God. In Nephi, God acknowledges a son whose life is led as closely to the commandments as mortality permits. God was proud of Nephi.
Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not sought thine own life [which is to say, Nephi hadn’t put his own appetites and desires above God’s], but thou hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
It’s a great couple of verses isn’t it? Can you imagine such validation from the almighty creator and father? The compliment that God Himself approves of you and acknowledges your way of living? But this is an important piece of scripture because what we’ve actually read has to my knowledge only very rarely cropped up before when discussing even the most faithful of God’s servants. In fact, with the exception of the mortal Jesus Christ, I haven’t seen more liberty in God’s sharing of His power and authority.
God acknowledges that Nephi lives for Him and and makes every decision with purpose: to come closer to Him. In fact, he’s done so tirelessly. Consistently. Nephi so purely understands God’s plan and God’s motivation that God in turn acknowledges this by referring to the equal footing that they had. God knows Nephi and trusts Nephi. He testified of the sincerity of Nephi’s character and says that he knows that they are so aligned in purpose that He could safely admit that anything Nephi asked could come to pass- because He knew that Nephi wouldn’t command anything contrary to what was appropriate and within the bounds of purpose.
It’s more than a compliment of Nephi’s heart and intentions. It’s a testament to his skillset, faith and earned authority as he’s fought daily to pull himself to a less mortal sphere of knowledge and understanding.
It makes me feel lazy! I can’t even be conscientious enough to get on my knees to pray most days! What an inspiration Nephi is to me of someone who can defy the bounds of mortality. He always strived for godly behaviour, godly empathy, godly humility. Too often we believe we’re here to appeal to God for our own amelioration- but I think Nephi must rarely have done this; instead he was the one who turned to God daily and asked how he might alleviate God’s burden that day. In doing so, he earned an understanding of God’s will.
I can’t fathom the peace of mind that conjured for Nephi.
An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life.
Lectures of Faith,7
How do we even consider living lives complimentarily to the way Nephi managed to live?
Marion G. Romney had a crack at enlightening us:
When we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus for specific personal things, we should feel in the very depths of our souls that we are willing to subject our petitions to the will of our father in heaven…
The time will come when we shall know the will of God before we ask. The everything for which we pray will be ‘expedient.’ Everything for which we ask will be ‘right.’ That will be when as a result of righteous living, we shall so enjoy the companionship of the spirit that he will dictate what we ask.