Nephi grieved from the depths of his heart:
My heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. (2 Nephi 4:17)
Can you feel Nephi’s pain? He was not merely saddened by his errors, he was grieving his humanness. He was sorrowing for his sins. And he felt bound to them and bounded by them. He hated the fetters of sin!
I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. (2 Nephi 4:18)
As much as Nephi loved God, his rejoicing felt inauthentic when his life was so riddled with error, weakness—let’s use the word: sin.
Nephi poignantly poses the questions that burden earnest seekers of goodness. Why can’t I overcome sin? Why, when I know so much and try so hard, does it continue to bedevil me? Why aren’t I better than I am when He helps me as much as He does?
His whole soul cried out. His spirit yearned to be set free of the exhausting gravity of frailty, imperfection, weakness, lack of resolve-there it is again: sin.
We may be tempted to soften Nephi’s point by imagining that his sins were quite different from ours. He does not enumerate or detail his sins and we should probably not speculate about them. Yet I think Nephi would be offended if we dulled his point by blunting his message. He said that he sinned. And he knew that sin offended God and burdened his soul.
A Mighty Change
Nephi jumped right from the pained question in his soul to post-answer rejoicing with a mere acknowledgment of Christ:
Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
Nephi’s relationship with and experience of Jesus was so great that he turned on a dime. He went from grieving to rejoicing with the utterance of the magical key. He did not give us the formula, the background, the process. He simply launched from earth to heaven. We are left amazed by the change without knowing the process.
In my view, that process was detailed almost a millennium later as part of the Book of Mormon benediction. In a wise and inspired note, Moroni revealed the divine process with elegant precision. As spokesman for Jesus, he said:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. (Ether 12:27)
Most of us feel that we don’t need that kind of help. There are already plenty of people (including we ourselves) who are willing to elaborate on our weakness. Yet there is something extraordinary about the way Jesus does that. He invites us to bring our weakness to Him so He can remove it. He doesn’t see us evaluatively but redemptively.
Moroni continued to deliver Jesus’ invitation:
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;
Weakness is heavenly-designed! Given heaven’s hatred of imperfection, there must be a good reason to provide it; Heaven must place unbelievable value on humility! Maybe humility is the gate to redemption?
My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;
There is the magical combination: our humility and His grace! When we set aside our preferences, our agenda, our demands and come to Him with open minds and hearts, He does magic.
For if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Wow. By recognizing our dependence on Him and by showing our trust in Him, we open the door to becoming strong. Suddenly we understand the Lord’s baffling message to Paul:
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9, emphasis added)
When we recognize and acknowledge our weakness, our dependence, Jesus can make us strong. Suddenly self-sufficiency dissolves. In its place comes confidence in the presence of God (See D&C 121:45).