Leaders of integrity or infamy found in The Book of Mormon provide the fodder for spiritual growth and self-improvement. It was made for us.
Two boys wanted, centuries apart, to go to church and some good things happened because of it. Some things big touching many lives, and some things small only touching an individual. A third boy wanted to know the truth and kept a journal about it that became a part of a sacred book!
Simple things becoming big things many times explain life in its plainest form.
What is the question? How is Nephi relevant?
Nephi's life helps us deal with the realities of mortal life is the short answer. For the rest, let’s begin?
Nephi kept a journal like me. Nephi wrote the things of his soul in it. He did not plan to have it published, which makes it even more special in my sight.
Journals are Sacred
“The things of my soul,” is what Nephi wrote on home-made metallic plates thin and smooth. He called them the small plates, his personal history. Mormon abridged Nephi’s records. Nephi produced two records, in his efforts to record the history of his family. He wrote a public version that included the history of his father Lehi on what he called the large plates. Unfortunately, centuries later, a young Joseph Smith in his twenties allowed the 116 pages of text he translated into English to disappear into the hands of his scribe, Martin Harris. That portion of history is not available right now.
Martin had to deal with his personal pursuit of verifieable proof of Nephi’s writings, Nephi’s Egyptian influenced etchings. In Martin’s need to have verifiable truth went the need of Nephi to have his father’s direct history to fall into the hands of enterprising people who sought to discredit the work. The history Nephi wanted to have public is now gone. His other history, his private history is what ended up being published.
People like Martin Harris, a witness of the existence of Nephi’s work, no less, troubled Mormon who figured correctly that the historical abridgment of Nephi and others’ words would be criticized. Of course, his work is criticized in an age where anyone can be a writer--as opposed to Mormon's time. In personal reflections, I suppose there exists no greater criticism than to attribute someone's life--Nephi’s telling of his testimony of how God dealt with him during his life trials and joys--to be the figment of the imagination of someone else.
Nephi etched it, Mormon abridged it, Joseph translated it, and I read it. I am glad God used that ancient testimony to give me modern hope in Jesus Christ. Nephi kept a journal like me. Nephi wrote the things of his soul in it. He did not plan to have it published, which makes it even more special in my sight.
...he did not allow what might be little embarrassments to stop him from including what he thought was of worth.
Being Okay With Okay
Nephi understood that perfection does not exist in the mortal realm for most of humanity. This knowledge brought with it distress, but he did not allow it to weigh him down unceasingly. From his writings, it seems he gave himself permission to have flaws.
He bemoaned the fact that he had flaws when, as many of us do, we want to lift our heads up in joy at the good things in our lives but then cry, “Why do I have to be so stubborn sometimes?” or “Who am I to have hope when I make so many mistakes?”
Nephi understood perfection is a process, gifted through Jesus Christ’s Atonement. That understanding has blessed the lives of millions of souls and continues to do so because of his desire to serve God as a scribe. His judgment, limited as it was proved providential in sacred words for The Book of Mormon.
Embarrassment troubled Mormon that his lack of refinement would cause generations of fault-finders to balk at his words found its way into the record, but he did not allow what might be little ignominies, to stop him from including what he thought was of worth.
I applaud Mormon and acknowledge his life and contribution to my personal testimony of Jesus Christ by courageously following the Lord so that people like me could have the words of Nephi.
...it is better to live a life full of hope occasionally being proven wrong than live a life full of cynicism and occasionally being proven right.
My Love is Your Love
To diminish the love of God this man Nephi expressed in his journal to a mere hoax perpetrated by Joseph Smith is hard enough to bear but to diminish the testimony that Nephi’s writings provided of Jesus Christ too!
The words to express the pain escape me now. As a witness of the love of the Savior, Jesus Christ, my heart aches for Nephi who millions believe him mere fiction.
When Mormon put his record together he knew not all who received it would accept it. I accepted it, but I still, have my doubts. I still doubt if God is real sometimes, though I have experienced Him in my life and continue to experience Him!
What is it about life that causes us to question our own experiences, let alone others? Like Nephi, we must allow ourselves to be imperfect--accept it and use faith to push forward.
Why do we question things in life that have been demonstrated to us to be true? Why would a man doubt that his wife loves him when she shows him? Why would a kid doubt her parents accept her when they show her? Why do we think the worst when the best is happening? It is a part of life. We have to admit it and move along with it in the back of our minds until our faith shows us that it was just a distraction to help us miser as does the devil for rejecting God.
I heard said recently that it is better to live a life full of hope occasionally being proven wrong than live a life full of cynicism and occasionally being proven right.
Which one leads to happiness, the one who doubts everything in case it is all false or the one who loves everything because she believes? Does it have to be realism versus wishful thinking?
God likes simple. It just seems to be so.
The Things of MY Soul.
What will people say of my experiences years from now? As I live, no one can deny that I am here, though they can claim I lie. The only thing I have of Nephi is his testimony that God helped his family and that Jesus is the Christ. His original words are gone. What I have is an abridgment of his words from a man named Mormon, which was translated by a man named Joseph into English by revelatory power! It sounds amazing! It is amazing.
The things of Nephi’s soul came with the price of them being desecrated by the unbelief of detractors. It happened to Jesus, so why not one of His believers? Nephi touched my heart, though. Nephi wrote,
O Lord, I have trusted in Thee, and I will trust in Thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh… I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto Thee; yea, I will cry unto Thee, my God, the Rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto Thee, my Rock and mine everlasting God. Amen. [2 Nephi 4:34-35]
Let that be the thing of my soul. Nephi’s family fell apart after his father Lehi passed away. Nephi’s brothers tried to kill him because they did not like the fact that in his old age, their father favored Nephi because Nephi believed in their father’s teachings about God.
Of course, Lehi had an affinity towards those of his children who believed his words. Imagining my siblings wanting to kill me because they think I wanted to take my father’s place as the new family leader breaks my soul!
My family is shattered enough, but Nephi’s family became murderous! This man had a horrible life, but still found the power to love and write beautiful things about God’s love for humanity. Powerful faith it takes to be like that. Nephi truly had a strong heart.
Why all of this is written? It started with a 14-year-old boy wanting to serve God and go to church. That small desire of that boy grew into the tree of faith that helped me, another boy 15-years-old at the time, find out where to go to church. It is so simple. God likes simple. It just seems to be so.
© 2021 Rodric Anthony Johnson