We all know the 1st book of Nephi so well, you may wonder if there is still more to learn. Welcome to the inexhaustible Book of Mormon that always surprises us with its spiritual richness and historical authenticity. You may know these stories, but we are about to enter a treasure room.

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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.

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Maurine

We all know the 1st book of Nephi so well, you may wonder if there is still more to learn. Welcome to the inexhaustible Book of Mormon that always surprises us with its spiritual richness and historical authenticity. You may know these stories, but we are about to enter a treasure room.

Scot

Hello, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s “Come Follow Me” podcast on 1 Nephi 1-7, called “I Will Go and Do”. Transcripts for these podcasts are at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast and while you are at Meridian Magazine be sure to sign up for our daily update because we have compelling new stories every day. Also, please tell your friends about the podcast. That’s the only way they will know. 

Maurine

Nephi starts his record, with what is called a colophon, which is a common way in ancient writings to mark the beginning or the end of a literary text. In a colophon the author is introduced, as well as the subject, the context and the purpose of the text, and in Nephi’s case, a solemn avowal that it is true.  Nephi begins, “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father, and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and all the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days” (1 Nephi 1:1) 

A seeming contradiction jumps out here for Nephi tells us that he has seen many afflictions in his days, but at the same time he has been highly favored of the Lord. If we suppose that those who are highly favored of the Lord escape affliction, it is clear that is not true. 

Nephi tells us specifically what it means to be highly favored of the Lord. It is to know the goodness and mysteries of God.  To receive revelation of Him and through Him, to see his hand of rescue and deliverance, is to be highly favored. Highly favored is not to be without challenge.

Scot

We see in this first chapter, one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon, and that is deliverance from bondage. Don’t miss this lesson!  Think of all the people who are in bondage in this book and are delivered: the people of Alma are delivered from bondage, the people of Limhi are delivered from bondage, Alma the Younger and the four sons of Mosiah are delivered from bondage, the brother of Jared and his people are delivered from the bondage that came from the tower of Babel. Nations, families and people are described who could only be delivered from bondage by the hand of God, and this theme is intentional. 

President Ezra Taft Bensons said, “The Book of Mormon…was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us.” (Ensign, Nov. 1968, p.6.)

Maurine

Moroni said, “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing”(Mormon 8:35). In other words, this book is made for us and its themes speak to our own predicament.

So our story starts with a people in bondage, the people of Jerusalem, and they don’t even realize what kind of bondage they are in, for they are materially well off, and to hear Laman and Lemuel describe it, they are happy—but it is all about to catch up with them.

Some background is helpful here. The Promised Land where God led Moses and the children of Israel anciently is in a precarious place, the corridor of travel between the superpowers of the ancient world—with Egypt on the south and first, Assyria and then Babylon to the north and east. Not only that, the Holy Land has access to the Mediterranean for commerce. They had big, bad neighbors who wanted what they had.

Scot

This would have been no problem to the Children of Israel because they were in a covenant with God, who had promised them to protect this land He had given them as long as they were righteous and kept His commandments. Again and again in the Old Testament, we see this covenant promise kept, as in the story of the servant of Elisha told in 2 Kings 6. Here the Syrians had come to attack Israel by night, compassing the city round about “with horses, chariots and a great host.” (2 Kings 6: 14)

When Elisha’s servant viewed this terrifying sight, he ran to Elisha, who reminded him, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16). 

Maurine

No matter how powerful the armies of the nation might be arrayed against the covenant children of Israel, they will be protected if they are righteous, but it they are not, they have broken the covenant and they are vulnerable.

The people of Jerusalem had broken that covenant and were situated dangerously between Babylon and Egypt, who were poised to conquer. They needed to repent to be spared, and in that case, the Lord sends prophets to teach and warn them. He wants to spare His covenant children this pain. He yearns to save them. This is a recurring pattern in scripture. The people are on the brink of destruction and He sends prophets to warn them to repent so He can keep His promises to them.

Scot

The pattern goes, if they repent they are spared, if only some will repent, they are led away before the destruction happens. It is interesting that much later, in 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem again, the Christians were not there at all. They had been warned and had already fled to a place called Pella before the Romans arrived. 

As the Book of Mormon opens about 600 BC, in the first year of Zedekiah’s reign “there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city of Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4). Who were some of those prophets? We know them because their concern for the downfall of Jerusalem also marks their writings. They include Zephaniah, Obadiah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel and most noteworthy Jeremiah, whose message so rankled the leaders of Jerusalem that he was thrown into a pit and was there when the city was being besieged.

Maurine

Jeremiah’s lament for Jerusalem is so heartbroken that we have a word still in our language that describes it. A jeremiad is a list of woes or lamentations.

Then, of course, there was one Lehi, whose name we know so well, who was also called as a prophet to warn the people. Going forth to pray for his people, “there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much” (1 Nephi 1:6). That he saw and heard much is such a tantalizing statement. We sometimes think that what prophets tell us is all there was, much like, when Joseph said after the First Vision, “many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.” (Joseph Smith History 1:20). This means, of course, that there is so much more.

Then, again, Lehi has another vision where he is admitted into the throne of God, surrounded by concourses of angels. What is a concourse? We hear this description in Revelation.

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne . . . : and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. [Revelation 5:11]

Scot

He sees “One descending out of the midst of heaven” whose luster was above the sun at noon-day” and twelve others following, who give him a book with this sad pronouncement. “Wo, wo unto Jerusalem for I have seen thine abominations…many shall perish and many should be carried away captive into Babylon” (1 Nephi 1:13).  After this Lehi went about delivering this message for which he was mocked and his life threatened.

Though the wicked hate to receive a message of repentance, Hugh Nibley and other scholars explained why this was particularly unpopular in Jerusalem. “The country had just come through a great economic boom, thanks mostly to commercial dealings with Egypt which had produced…unparalleled…great private fortunes.” Records show that the great men of the East “took the gold of Egypt in return for their wine, oil, grain, and honey.” Jerusalem had a fatal and economic infatuation with Egypt. The cultural and economic ties were strong. (http://www.gospelink.com/library/document/27879)

Maurine

Babylon was now moving quickly into a showdown with Egypt with Jerusalem in the middle. When Lehi preached repentance or Babylon would destroy Jerusalem, it was also in their minds an assault upon their economic well-being, an anti-Egypt political stance. Not only are we not wicked, the people protest, we certainly can never side against Egypt.

So Lehi is told to depart into the wilderness, and this is not hard for him to do. He doesn’t have to ask how to take on this task, as Nephi will later have to ask about building a ship. It appears that Lehi is already familiar with the desert and Nibley and his fellow scholars suggest that he had amassed his wealth through being a merchant trader. 

“Lehi was a very rich Jew; he was proud of his Egyptian education, spoke and wrote Egyptian, and insisted on his sons learning the language. He possessed exceeding great wealth in the form of ‘gold, silver, and all manner of riches (1 Nephi 3:16) not manufactured at Jerusalem…and was something of an expert in vine, olive, fig and honey culture; so there can be little doubt of the nature of his business with Egypt.” (http://www.gospelink.com/library/document/27879)

Scot

It is noteworthy that the names of his sons might reflect various stages of Lehi’s life as a merchant. Laman and Lemuel are Arabic names, reflective of a desert trade. Nephi and Sam are both Egyptian names—Sam (not Samuel, but Sam) to this day is one of the most popular names in Egypt; and Joseph and Jacob, born in the wilderness after the family left Jerusalem are Hebrew names.

So following the warning, Lehi takes his family into the desert, taking the 180 mile journey south to the fountain of the Red Sea. Escaping for Lehi’s life, they are probably hurrying. Then, once they are at the fountain of the Red Sea—or the Gulf of Aqaba–they take a three-day journey beyond that, along the borders of the Red Sea, to the valley where they will reside for a period of time, that Lehi names the Valley of Lemuel. This would be in modern day Saudi Arabia.

Lehi and Sariah already have problems on their hands with their oldest sons, who have already started murmuring. They are taking a family of split loyalties because Laman and Lemuel had seen nothing wrong about the doings in Jerusalem and had loved their lifestyle supported by Egypt.

Maurine

Thus, Lehi exhorts his sons, first to Laman, “O that thou mightiest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of righteousness.” Then to Lemuel he says, “O that thou mightiest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 2: 9, 10).

Comparing Lemuel to a valley is different than we would do. We would say that a mountain was firm, steadfast and immovable (you know:  Firm as the Mountains Around Us), and it is an authentic, ancient Middle-eastern moment that Lemuel is instead exhorted to be like a valley.

Lehi’s exhortations to his sons are in vain, and they will be a dangerous and angry drag to this wilderness journey the entire way. What is their problem? I ask my institute students that when I teach these chapters, and some of them will say that they have a problem with their attitude, but, in fact, their problem is much deeper than that. 

Scot

We learn early on in the Book of Mormon, right in chapter two, that Laman and Lemuel’s root problem is “that they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12). In this tough journey, the wilderness journey, knowing the dealings of God makes all the difference. 

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Failing to understand the ‘dealings’ of the Lord with His children–meaning His relations with and treatment of His children–is very fundamental. Murmuring is but one of the symptoms, and not the only consequence either; in fact, brothers and sisters, this failure affects everything else!

“To misread something so crucial constitutes a failure to know God, who then ends up being wrongly seen as unreachable, uninvolved, uncaring, and unable–a disabled and diminished Deity, really–about whose seeming limitations, ironically, some then quickly complain,” especially when things are uncomfortable or the good end is not quickly in sight. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Lessons from Laman and Lemuel” https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/1999-10-02/elder-neal-a-maxwell-lessons-from-laman-and-lemuel-121954

Maurine

Scot, remember, we once worked on a youth conference where we reenacted Lehi’s wilderness journey from Jerusalem, complete with assigning the kids various roles to play as we made the journey. We did this in a fairly uninhabited valley just west of the Salt Lake Valley, and the day was hot, the way was dusty, and it was a tough, tough walk. We asked each of the youth to play a role in this journey and the kids we assigned to play the roles of Laman and Lemuel were great at their parts. They complained and whined and talked about how great the food and comfort and dating was back in Jerusalem. They threw themselves into their roles.

But about halfway through this journey, we noticed that the kids playing Laman and Lemuel dropped their murmuring and, instead of being difficult, started helping others across the creeks and around the prickly sagebrush. They started to cheer other people on. We said, “Hey Laman and Lemuel, why aren’t you acting out your parts? They answered, it is just too hard and too hot, to complain. That murmuring brings us down and weakens us. We can’t take it anymore. 

Scot

Such a deep lesson there about knowing “the dealings of that God who had created them.” When you can find comfort from the Lord in your difficulties, when you understand his purposes in your experiences, when you know that he does all things for your benefit, experience in mortality is utterly transformed. It is so much deeper than having a good attitude, which we can try to have, but like a coat we put on and take off, it can also fall off pretty quickly in the heat of hard times. 

Contrast Laman and Lemuel with Nephi, who actively seeks to know the Lord. He describes himself:  “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).  He inquired. He asked. He sought the Lord, who promises us that He will be found—not just by Nephi but by all of us who diligently seek Him.

This is why Nephi can say with such assurance, “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).

Maurine

We mentioned at the beginning of this podcast that one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon was deliverance, and there it is stated as clearly as possible. God’s tender mercies in small things and big ones, in the tedium of every day or the terror of crisis, is there to deliver us. The Book of Mormon depicts bondage clearly and miserably in many forms and in various personalities, and absolutely shows the way to deliverance—and it is only through God.  

The Lord says, “Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy afaith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.” There is the key, seek diligently with “lowliness of heart.” God does not seek to be hidden from us, but He does require that we seek him with real intent.

Scot

Nephi is also given the long vision of what they are about in leaving Jerusalem, which perspective also changes his journey ahead. 

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall aprosper, and shall be led to a bland of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands” (1 Nephi 2:20).

This is another prominent theme in the Book of Mormon repeated in one form or another at least 38 times. They are to be given a land of promise where they shall prosper, as long as they keep their covenants, but as we learn later, this promise is withdrawn should they break them.

Maurine

This knowledge of God is why Nephi responds so well to Lehi’s request for the brothers to return to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass held in Laban’s custody. 

Scot

And, by the way, these are plates of brass, not brass plates. The Hebrew language is not constructed as is English and they would not say brass plates. Of course, Joseph Smith knew nothing about Hebrew as he was translating this book. That it should read like this—plates of brass–is another of the authenticities in the Book of Mormon.

Maurine

Right. So back to Nephi. I hope our description of Jerusalem has begun to give you a sense of how dangerous this assignment is to return to Jerusalem to get these plates. Not only is it an inconvenient and footsore journey to return, but this is where Lehi’s life has been threatened by the powers that be. Now this is where he is sending his sons, and not just to anyone, but to Laban whose vile, greedy and rapacious characteristics could have been no secret to Lehi. How would you even undertake such a thing?

Laman and Lemuel complain that this is a hard thing, and they are right, it really is, but this is not Lehi’s request, but God’s, and He often asks hard things of us. He is working to develop us from passive, entitled slugs to soaring eagles and this is quite a work.

Scot

Nephi’s response to God’s request is another key idea of the Book of Mormon, “I willa 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 preparec a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).

This is so much more profound than we often realize. If the Lord gives us a commandment, He will prepare a way for us to accomplish it. If husbands are asked to provide for their families, He will prepare a way to help us fulfill that commandment. If we are asked to be good parents to sometimes difficult children, He will prepare a way for us. If we are asked to endure things that are challenging or take on assignments that we are not sure we have the capacities for, He will prepare a way for us, if we will seek His counsel.

Maurine

Though he prepares a way for us, that way may not always be easy and may demand that we use every ounce of muscle and brainpower we have. Again, the Lord will set for us developmentally difficult tasks, while holding our hand.

Let’s look at this trip to get the plates of brass as an example. This is not going to be easy.

Scot

And just a side note here about another thing the Book of Mormon gets right. The brothers go “up to Jerusalem.” In our modern perspective when we say that we are going “up” we mean north. In the Book of Mormon time period, up means elevation. They will go up to Jerusalem because it is a higher elevation than where they are—and with walking or taking camels everywhere—that makes sense.  And by the way, this is no small journey back—we’re talking at least 9-14 days each way, not counting the interactions they are about to have in Jerusalem itself.

Maurine

Yes, so back to the call to get the plates of brass. They start with their own best ideas about how to do it, which is casting lots to decide who would go meet Laban. Laman was chosen, he asked nicely for the plates as they talked, and Laban’s response is indicative of the atmosphere of the elite in Jerusalem, which is violent, harsh and angry. Just because Laman asked, Laban threatened,  “Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee” (1 Nephi 3:13).

Scot

Laman fled, and, of course, he was frightened and terrorized and ready to give up, but, after much persuasion, Nephi said,a “We will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplishedb the thing which the Lord hath commanded us,”(1 Nephi 3:15) and suggested that they bring their substantial wealth and precious things in trade for the plates. 

Laban was again the murderous picture of greed and dishonesty, lusting after their wealth and thrusting them out, sending his servants in a rush through the city to slay them and keep their inheritance. \

Maurine

While hiding in a cavity in a rock, Laman and Lemuel turn their anger and fear on Nephi and Sam, speaking to them harshly and smiting them with a rod. This ugly scene is interrupted by an angel who asks, “Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a rulerb over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliverc Laban into your hands” (1 Nephi 3:29)

We sometimes think that if we had a vision or if an angel visited us, our faith would be sure and we could then do the hardest things. Joseph Smith did. Nephi did. Yet, what is true is that even with heavenly manifestations, it is our own courage and devotion that must be mustered. You still have your same character whether you have seen an angel or not. 

Scot

Yes, after the angel left, then Laman and Lemuel went right on murmuring. Here, they have seen a heavenly manifestation, yet so firmly are they planted in the world, they are still much more fearful of Laban who is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:31).

This idea astounds Nephi, reminding them that the Lord “is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” (1 Nephi 4:1)

This is the question that will confront us in life where the challenges are so pressing and seem mightier than anything else. We have to always remember that this Lord with whom we have covenanted “is mightier than all the earth,” no matter how loud or persuasive or coercive this world is.

Maurine

Nephi does here, what he will do again, which is to call upon Laman and Lemuel to look to Moses and the miracles God wrought in saving the Children of Israel. Moses’s wilderness journey with the Children of Israel will be a model for them. “An angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?” Nephi asks. (1 Nephi 4:3).

This time it will be Nephi’s turn to go into Jerusalem, alone at night to find a way to get the plates. A word about what that means. Ancient cities at night were without light, so dark and dangerous that only the unscrupulous, ready to prey on others were out. Homes were shuttered and barred, walled off from the streets, and you could be certain that any you met along the way after dark in an ancient city were up to no good. You could be robbed or killed without anyone’s inquiring eyes, and so for Nephi, not only was Jerusalem already perilous because of Laban’s desires for blood, but also because the dark hid those with the worst intentions.

Nephi tells us, “I was aled by the Spirit, not bknowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6).

Scot

I have to say here, this is one of the scriptures we made sure all our children memorized.  And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing, before the things which I should do.” I can still see our tiniest children reciting this verse.  You can imagine Nephi coming to a crossroads. Do I turn left or do I turn right? The Spirit whispers. Again another crossroads. The Spirit whispers. He must rely on the Spirit because his own plans have come to naught and how is he possibly to obtain these plates with his own devices? He can’t, which is exactly the scenario we find ourselves in often. We don’t know the solutions to our problems. We can’t find the way to a child’s heart or see how to face the difficulty upon us. Sometimes we just have to be led by the Spirit not knowing beforehand what we should do. This is based on having finely developed and tuned that relationship with God.

Maurine

Following the Spirit, of course, Nephi comes upon Laban and our picture of the corruption and decadence of Jerusalem is even clearer. He is in a drunken stupor on the street, in full ceremonial armor, to meet with the elders of the city at night, which are probably the religious and political bureaucrats. Their meeting at night, suggests that their work is secretive, even conspiratorial. It is this man who is the keeper of the treasury and the records?

Nephi, who is fascinated by Laban’s sword, notes that the “hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9). Nephi takes this sword and in the future it will be an iconic part of the Nephite culture.

Scot

But for now, Nephi is told to slay Laban to which he responds, “Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.” (1 Nephi 4:10) What follows is the Spirit urging Nephi to the task for important reasons. Without this record, his people would not have the law or commandments, their language would become corrupt, the Lord has delivered Laban into his hands for this very purpose. 

The Spirit says, “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” What nation is that? It is not just the Nephite nation, but ours as well, for if they had not created the Book of Mormon, we too would remain in darkness. All this that started with a difficult act of obedience.

Maurine, I remember Joseph Fielding McConkie had a couple of students one semester from the Middle East in his Book of Mormon class and he was teaching this scene of Nephi and Laban.  A number of the students were struggling with the brutality or the actual taking of Laban’s life. After some discussion, Joseph could see that the Middle Eastern students were somewhat perturbed with the others.  He asked them what they were thinking. They said, “We just can’t figure out why it took Nephi so long to respond and to kill this man. They had been threatened. Laban had stolen all their possessions. In our culture—especially in that ancient time—he had every right to kill Laban.”

Maurine

We know the story. Nephi dresses in Laban’s armor and imitates his speech, meets his servant Zoram at the treasury, who unlocks the door and Nephi obtains the plates. When they go outside the city wall and Zoram realizes he has been duped, he would have run in fear, but Nephi said, “I spake unto him, even with an oath, that he need not fear; that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us.” That an oath would stop Zoram from running indicates just how powerful an oath is, but we have to wonder if being aware of how badly things were going with the elders in Jerusalem, Zoram was glad to switch sides.

Scot

When the brothers arrive back in the Valley of Lemuel, there is relief and rejoicing, particularly for Sariah who had believed her sons were lost. They may have been gone more than a month. It is important to note, too, that they offer sacrifices, a practice which would have been essential to observant people on this journey. They may have left their riches behind, but not their religious rituals.

Lehi is joyous to have the plates of brass to learn of his genealogy, that he is a descendent of Joseph, but more important to have “the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah.” He prophesied that “these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.” (1 Nephi 5:18).

Maurine

So the questions is has that happened? Have the plates of brass gone forth to all nations? The plates of brass are not the same as the Old Testament. They are a fuller, more complete record up until 600 BC and contain the records of significant prophets we don’t know from the Bible—Zenock, Zenos and Neum—as well as an extensive record from Joseph of Egypt. They are priceless and someday we will have them in fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy, but we don’t have them yet.

Scot

It wasn’t the last trip to Jerusalem for the brothers, because they were commanded to go back again to get Ishmael and his family. Notice there’s no record of complaints from the boys about this assignment.  This time it was painless as Ishmael was spiritually inclined and easily entreated, but the division continues. Now Laman and Lemuel have allies, two sons and two daughters of Ismael and their families find out how hard the going is and they want to return to Jerusalem. Nephi says “If ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them” (1 Nephi 7:15).

Nephi’s entreaties only further anger them, and they bind him with cords, intending to leave him to be devoured by beasts—and that wilderness is full of them. He would indeed have been someone’s tasty dinner.

Maurine

Scot, you created a photo gallery on your phone of the kinds of beasts that could have devoured Nephi in that Arabian location and, wow, they are nasty.

Scot 

The Arabian Leopard is one of them.  The Arabian wolf and the Jackal are two others.  We had our own interaction with an Arabian Leopard at the spring on the coast of the Arabain Sea in Oman.  We’ll tell you about that, I believe, in a future podcast. I have 19 different photos of creatures from this area on my phone.  I only wish I could show you the photos to get the full impact. 

Maurine

What happens next is a profound example of the atonement at work, as Elder David A. Bednar said: “In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote enabling power…The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

“In my personal scripture study,” he said, “I often insert the term ‘enabling power’ whenever I encounter the word grace. Consider, for example, this verse with which we are all familiar: ‘We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23).

Scot

He continues, “Nephi is an example of one who knew, understood, and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior,” and then he tells this story about Nephi being bound in cords. 

Elder Bednar says, “Please note Nephi’s prayer: ‘O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound’ (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added).

“Do you know what I likely would have prayed for if I had been tied up by my brothers? ‘Please get me out of this mess NOW!’ It is especially interesting to me that Nephi did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement.

Maurine

“I do not think the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then “in the strength of the Lord” (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords, and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.

“The implication of this episode for each of us is straightforward. As you and I come to understand and employ the enabling power of the Atonement in our personal lives, we will pray and seek for strength to change our circumstances rather than praying for our circumstances to be changed. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14).”

Scot

There’s so much more to say, but that’s all for today. This has been Meridian Magazine’s “Come Follow Me” podcast.  Thanks to Paul Cardall for supplying the music. Next week we will study 1 Nephi 8-10 “Come and Partake of the Fruit.”

Maurine

See you then.