One thing that always amazes me about the Book of Mormon is that no matter how many times I read it, I always notice something different, in every single chapter, every single time. I love that.
So the kids and I are starting fresh with 1st Nephi, Chapter 1, which you can find here. This time I noticed the love of a Prophet. We read verse 4:
“For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.”
I wondered what that would have been like. Here I am muddling along minding my own business, when a bunch of prophets come out of the woodwork saying we’ve got to repent or we’ll be destroyed. I’d imagine that aside from a few hecklers, most people would ignore them. I mean, yeah, things are obviously messed up, what what am I supposed to do about it?
I think we tend to lull ourselves into this safe little place where we compare ourselves to what appears to be going on around us. So we say, “Okay, so I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not as bad as some people. Look at Joe Schmoe! He cheats on his wife. There’s really no harm in what I’m doing. Joe Schmoe really ought to straighten up.” We don’t say Joe Schmoe, of course. We do often say they instead of we or I when referencing wrong-doers, though, don’t we? We forget to take it personally.
But then along comes this prophet and he says, “I’ve seen your abominations. I know you wouldn’t want your spouse to overhear those flirty conversations with your coworker. I know that wasn’t just a pop-up. I know you’re sarcastic and mean with your kids because you think that’s the only way to make them do what they’re supposed to do. I know when you see someone with their blinker on that you speed up so they can’t get in front of you. When that stranger needed help, you ignored them and left the helping to someone else. I saw you eat candy for breakfast – don’t you know that will destroy your body? And I know what you’re thinking about in church. God showed me all of this. When I say we all need to repent, I’m talking about YOU, too.” Suddenly that prophet becomes much harder to ignore. And his message starts to sting a little. So then what do you do?
We know what they did. They mocked, they threw stones, they sought to destroy these prophets or drive them away. They didn’t repent, and ultimately they suffered for it. It’s easy to see that pattern in the past. It’s easy to apply the harder stuff to someone else. But what will I do when I’m called to repentance?
None of those thoughts were new thoughts for me actually, but this was: in thinking about what I would do, and discussing it with the kids, we started to wonder why the prophets would put themselves out there like that. If these prophets have seen how many bad things their people are up to, surely they’d also know what would happen if they called them out on it. So why would they stick their neck out like that for someone they know is just going to mock and scourge them? Is it so they can say, “Neener neener nyah nyah! I told you!” Somehow I don’t think it would be worth it. The obvious answer would be that God asked them to call everyone to repentance and they are doing His will. I had never noticed the less obvious answer, even though it was just five verses into the chapter I’ve read more than any other. Adding my own emphasis:
“Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.“
Lehi prayed with all his heart for his people, because he loved them. Because he loved them, he testified to them, even though he probably knew he’d just be rejected like all the other prophets. Christ knew He’d be hurt and rejected, too, but lived and died, and lives for us again, because He loves us. And, because we are so very deeply loved by a merciful God, we’re sent prophets to remind us that He’ll help us if we just turn to Him. And the Lord doesn’t give us these commandments because He wants us to feel guilty all the time. He gives us the commandments out of love, too.
Would I repent if a prophet asked me to? That isn’t so much the question, because we have all been given guidance and correction by modern-day prophets and the Holy Spirit. So it isn’t a matter of “would I” but “Will I?” I hope I’ll keep striving to continually do the Lord’s will, and I hope you will, too. It’s how we’ll learn the most from life’s trials and get through them without being caught in destruction, dysfunction, and dispair. The Lord blesses us through our faithfulness, as we see in verse 20:
“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.”
He’s blessed me, and I know He’ll bless you, too.