Nephi’s Formula for Spiritual Success

Courtesy Gospel Media Library © By Intellectual Reserve, Inc.There was a critical event in the Book of Mormon that doesn’t get headlined very often. It was when Nephi was dealing with the bitterness, doubts, and scorn of his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Instead of allowing his brothers to dissuade and discourage him, he took his questions to the Lord independently. And he got a crystal clear answer. It’s one of my favorite verses in the whole book. Here it is:

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. (1 Nephi 2:16.)

Hinge Points

We all have hinge points. Sometimes those points open doors, other times they close them. To me, this was Nephi’s hinge point. Maybe it was hinge point of the whole Book of Mormon epic. I mean, if Nephi had followed his brothers’ examples and become a Mr. Grumble Grump, would we even have a Book of Mormon?

Well, I suppose the Lord would call and install another, as his works cannot be frustrated (see Doctrine and Covenants 3:1,3), but Nephi would not have been in the picture. Well, maybe he would have been another bad example. The Book of Mormon has a herd of goats and Nephi could have been numbered among them.

Nephi’s Formula

Here’s my take on Nephi’s formula.

  1. He had a great desire to know and understand the mysteries and will of God.
  2. He prayed to the Lord, at the right time, for the right reasons. It seems he didn’t just say his prayers, but cried out to God in some pain and great earnestness.
  3. The Lord visited him and softened his heart so that he believed all the words of his father.

This formula works for me and you if we have the faith to apply it. That’s my experience. We don’t have to wait for someone else’s explanation. We can get an answer directly from the Lord. It takes time, patience, and repentance.

“I Will Go and Do . . .”

It was after his prayer that Nephi returned to his father’s tent and uttered these now famous words:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7).

Nephi must have had a remarkable experience to declare his faith and commitment like this. From what we can gather from the pages of 1 and 2 Nephi, that experience never left him.

Put Your Trust in Him

I have had a both good life and a difficult one. I have had lots of personal troubles—I still have plenty of them—but I’ve also had my own spiritual experiences, my own quiet triumphs. I make mistakes every day that I regret, but with all my heart, I believe these words from Alma the Younger:

I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 38:5.)

The Lord has led me out of my trials because when I take them to Him, He can help me—and He can help you. He can help everyone, no matter where they are on the trail. It takes patience and a humble heart, but God always delivers those who don’t give up on their faith in Him.

But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage. (Mosiah 7:33.)

Wow! Now that’s a promise. I like to think he will deliver us for any and all kinds of bondage: pride, deception, bad habits, bad attitudes, intellectualism, judgment, perfectionism, lust, addictions, sins new and old—He will deliver us from any and all of them, if we can manage to trust Him and act on that trust.

Find Lasting Peace in Troubled Times

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Peace comes and goes for most of us, day to day, possibly several times a day, but there is a peace that lasts. It doesn’t go away unless we choose to go away from it. It’s a peace that “passeth all understanding” (see Philippians 4:7), a peace from God. Because we come from God, it’s not surprising that abiding peace comes from Him too.

My hope is to share a few things that have given me a peace that endures in troubled times.

You’ll probably read or hear these angelic words more than once this Christmas season:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14.)

The sentiment is familiar, but the King James rendition might not have captured the original meaning.

Consider several other translations of Luke 2:14 (emphasis mine). Let’s start with the Wycliffe Bible, translated under the direction of John Wycliffe in the late 1300s:

Glory be in the highest things to God, and in earth peace be to men of good will.

Here’s how the New International Version (1970s) renders it:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

And here’s yet another sense from The Message, Edward Peterson’s translation completed in 2002.

Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

There’s a theme here: Peace will come to those who please God, to men and women of good will, on whom His favor rests.

Just before He entered the garden of Gethsemane, Christ said:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27.)

That’s not situational peace. He was about to suffer more than anyone was capable of suffering (see D&C 19:15–20), but His understanding rested on what would result from that suffering. In spite of betrayal, tribulation, or torture, in spite of what the world was saying or doing, he found a peace that was not of this world:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33.)

The religious establishment of the day could harm His body and inflict on Him unimaginable pain, but they could not take His peace.

He told us in this dispensation where to find that peace:

But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come. (D&C 59:23; emphasis mine).

I love this verse about Enoch. It’s not often cited, but it describes to me one of the greatest sources of peace:

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5; emphasis added).

To walk the path our Heavenly Father intends us walk,  and to remain on that path, can lead us to the testimony that our course pleases Him—a lasting source of peace. If we do our best to follow our heart and conscience, imperfect as we may be, we can have faith and not be troubled about the future.

That’s my wish for you this Christmas season: A testimony of your standing before Him, and peace of mind in this world and real hope in the world to come.

[This post was first published in Decemeber 2016.]

The Wexford Carol by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Here is a beautiful arrangement of an English carol that dates from the 16th century. Listen. I promise you’ll feel better when you do. Lyrics follow.

Good people all, this Christmastime,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His belovèd Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day;
In Bethlehem upon the morn
There was a blest Messiah born.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep;
To whom God’s angels did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear.
“Prepare and go”, the angels said,
“To Bethlehem, be not afraid;
For there you’ll find, this happy morn,
A princely Babe, sweet Jesus born.”

[This post was first published in December 2016.]

“My Peace I Give unto You”

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Within hours, Jesus would suffer beyond all comprehension, and yet he left these words—among His last—with His apostles:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27.)

“My peace”? What is His peace? I’ve been pondering that one today. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Lasting peace, real peace, is rooted in Jesus Christ. He was one with our Father, and He was at peace with Himself. He is the example of peace. Though He was thronged by mockery, persecution, betrayal, even torture, in this world, He overcame the world (see John 16:33). Overcoming the world, or real peace, comes when nothing in this world can break our connection with God.

We may find temporary peace in this world of ours, but lasting peace comes in the presence of God. We can find that presence at home, in nature, in the temple, or simply in our hearts. To be present with God, we must be present in ourselves. We must have a temple in our hearts, our own private holy of holies.

Peace is also the fruit of unity. Unity is the essence of God’s life. God is at peace with all beings in the universe, though they may not be at peace with Him. Which leads me to my conclusion.

You can be at peace within yourself, and with God, no matter what others are doing and saying around you. You can know peace, the peace that Christ gives, in spite of earth and hell. Peace can dwell in that private, invincible part of you, that place no one may enter or intrude upon without your permission.