Day 8: Happiness, Peace, Eternal Life

1 Nephi 20:17-19, 21-22

I love when Nephi recounts the miracles God performed for the children of Israel in the past and for Nephi’s family in the present. They were an essential reminder of several things, including evidence of God’s existence, proof of God’s goodness, and of how God always fulfills His promises to His covenant people. In chapter 20, Nephi records the words of Isaiah which follow this pattern.

As I read the concluding verses of 1 Nephi 20, a sort of parallel construction struck me. First, Isaiah testifies of the existence of the “Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” and some of His roles such as teacher and leader (v. 17). Then the Lord provides information about potential blessings that could have been available if the audience had been covenant keepers: peace and strength in righteousness, numberless posterity (v. 18-19). The turning point comes in verse 20 where “The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob” provides a sort of hinge. Verse 21 provides the evidence that the Lord has the power to fulfill the promises of verses 18-19: He led the children of Israel “through the deserts” and kept them alive in miraculous ways, like providing water from rocks. This miracle and others demonstrate God’s power and reliability. He always fulfills His promises, therefore we can believe His promises of peace and eternal life.

This setup is why verse 22 struck me so forcefully this time: “And notwithstanding he hath done all this, and greater also, there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” There is an irreducible truth to be gleaned here. Not even God, who has all power, goodness, truth, mercy, and knowledge can grant peace to the wicked. It is an eternal truth that happiness, peace, and eternal life can ONLY be granted on the conditions of repentance and obedience. ONLY covenant, commandment-keeping, righteous people fulfill the qualifications for these blessings. “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). God wants us to achieve lasting happiness, peace, and eternal life so He has instructed His prophets from the beginning of time to teach this eternal truth: happiness, peace, and eternal life ONLY result from keeping the commandments, making and keeping covenants with God, repenting, exercising faith in Jesus Christ, and following God.

 

Day 6: The Nature of Happiness

1 Nephi 17:21

The other day as we were planning our Book of Mormon-themed costumes for the ward Halloween party, I started throwing out suggestions; we could all be Book of Mormon missionaries, we could each be a member of Lehi’s family. My oldest daughter piped up and suggested she be Laman. My husband and I both gently shook our heads with  knowing smiles and said, “No, you don’t want to be Laman.”

Nobody really likes Laman and Lemuel but, in reality, we each have some Laman and Lemuel in us. Whether we sometimes feel like God’s requests are too much, too heavy, or too difficult, we humans are prone to murmuring and disobedience. Laman and Lemuel are like a type for humankind. So when I read 1 Nephi 17:21 this time around I immediately recognized myself in this typically Laman and Lemuel moment.

Nephi has been commanded to build a ship, everybody needs to help, and the now contented Laman and Lemuel who are enjoying Bountiful by the sea suddenly revert to their old schtick. “We have suffered in the wilderness” all these years, so many afflictions, everything was better in Jerusalem, “we might have been happy.” Laman and Lemuel insist on believing that happiness is something external to them and that only certain conditions will CAUSE them to be happy. “We might have been happy” if we had stayed in Jerusalem, kept our gold and silver, not been uncomfortable, had enough to eat, been with our righteous friends back home, and on and on. “We might have been happy” felt eerily familiar.

How many times in the midst of a difficult or stressful time in my life have I thought, “I could be happy right now if only: my husband had a job, we didn’t have to live with family, my children were more obedient, there were more time in a day, my infant had teeth, we had more money….” The trouble with this “grass is greener” mentality is that this line of thinking goes really far south really fast. The other problem is that it’s fallacious. Satan wants us to believe that THINGS and external conditions make us happy when in reality, true happiness comes from personal righteousness (i.e. obedience to God) and an internal choice to be happy.

If you are having trouble begin happy, I invite you to reflect on this anecdote from the Book of Mormon and identify ways you can increase your happiness through personal righteousness and choose to be happy.

Day 2: Blessings of Being Stubborn

1 Nephi 3:14-16, 28 and
1 Nephi 7:6-17

The dramatic account of Nephi standing up to his brothers never fails to awe me. He relentlessly testifies of truth and courageously withstands their mocking, doubting, mumbling, and beatings. I have reflected off and on the last few months that it takes a certain level of stubbornness for a person to remain active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There will always be nay-sayers and even active attempts by others to pull down one’s faith. Nephi stubbornly refuses to give in to his brothers’ pessimism or their encouragement to disobey. He stubbornly insists on the primacy of God’s commandments and the need for obedience. It takes a stubborn person to say, “Nothing is working out, this seems impossible, everything is pointing away from God, but I’m going to believe and press forward anyway.”