I have prayed for and continue to pray in my heart for the direction of the Holy Spirit both in my preparation and now delivery of my message. May he guide both what I say and what you hear.
I want you to picture in your mind the painting of Nephi shocking his brothers. You have all seen it. Nephi looks something like this… Nephi never tells us that the had Mitt Romney hair, a square jaw, a cleft chin and bulging muscles, all he said is that he was large in stature, which could mean portly for all we know.
I have never liked that picture. Mostly because it portrays Nephi physically the way he has also been built up spiritually. I could never identify with him. I could see his brothers rolling their eyes as they heard Nephi say, “And I Nephi said unto my father, I will go and do the things…”
As a teenager, I could relate to Laman and Lemuel. Consider, for a minute, their viewpoint.
Our family is rich. We have many friends and parties. Jerusalem is fun and comfortable. Then dad has a dream. That’s all, just a dream. Flash forward a few short years and we have no money, we live in a tent. Our wives and families suffer from hunger, pain and misery and our self-righteous brother intends to rule over us.
Brothers and sisters, I can sympathize.
There are several directions we could take at this point. We could talk about 1Nephi 15 and talk about one’s desire to know the mysteries of God and that making a big difference, but what I would rather focus on is what I call the redemption of Nephi, at least in my own mind.
It was not until I finally and deeply studied 2Nephi that my appreciation and emulation of Nephi grew. Let me read a bit from what Nephi said at the time of his greatest soul turmoil. Prior to writing this, Nephi had lost his father (2Nephi 4:12), had escaped multiple assassination attempts and had seen the tragic destruction of his own people (1Nephi 15:5). He was at perhaps the lowest point in his life. Yes, even lower than his experience being tied up in a boat while crossing what had to have been a brutal and seemingly endless oceanic voyage (1Nephi 18).
Here is the first of his remarkable revelations to me. (2Nephi 4)
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;
That is remarkable. In my youth and long into my young adulthood, I thought Nephi was completely unrelatable. I thought he never did a thing wrong. I wrongly thought that he always obeyed. Let me read again a part of that scripture.
19 Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh (I can relate); my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.( yup, me too)
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. (again, I can relate)
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;(very descriptive of me). Nephi was like me afterall.
Nephi was plagued by sins and temptations and specifically, sins of the flesh.
Then, he says something remarkable. in the very same sentence where he describes “sin groaning,” he says, “nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
It is precisely this that made all the difference. Nephi then describes the things that led to his being able to trust Jesus. He says,
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. 22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. 23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. 24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
He concludes his trust thoughts by saying, 34 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;
Brothers and sisters, do you trust Jesus? Trusting Jesus is simple, yet multifaceted. We could break down the trust question into four subordinate questions.
- Do you believe that Jesus is powerful enough to deliver you in every necessary way?
- Do you believe that Jesus loves you, individually enough to want to deliver you?
- Do you believe that Jesus will keep all of his promises?
- Do you believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is authorized by Jesus to stand in his place and help in deliverance?
Now, let me ask some searching questions that I have answered for myself and that I want you to answer to yourself now.
- Do you believe that Jesus or his authorized representative will be too disappointed in your behavior to help?
- Do you believe that you will not be delivered because you have not earned deliverance?
- Do you believe that your trials are so unique that either Jesus or his authorized representative may not understand?
- Are you hesitating to confess and forsake a sin?
- Do you believe that your temptations are over-powering?
- Are you holding back the payment of tithes and offerings?
- Do you believe that all justice needs to be executed in this life?
- Are you going to the temple less than monthly if at all?
- Are you going days or weeks or months without reading the Book of Mormon?
If you answered yes to any one of these, which I have from time to time, you need to raise your trust level. There are three ways to overcome the trust gap.
As Nephi mentioned, mighty prayer is essential. Often our prayers become mimicking and perfunctory. For example, one day for family prayer, one of my sons said a prayer that went something like this: “Dear, kind, gracious Heavenly Father, we thank thee for our many blessings. Please bless the missionaries. Please bless the prophet. We ask thee to bless us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Hardly mighty prayer. When he was done, and with both love and firmness mixed with a little sarcasm, I said, “Son, I have an idea that will make those types of prayers more efficient. Why don’t we number your phrases. For example, you could reserve numbers 1-10 for prayer intros. So, for example, you could give your phrase, “Dear, kind, gracious Heavenly Father” number 1. And maybe “Father in Heaven” number 2. Then you could move on to numbering phrases like “Bless the missionaries.” Let’s make that number 15. You could say that “Bless the prophet” is number 25 and so on. That way, you could say, “1,15,23,25,40,amen” and save a lot of time.”
Mighty prayer contains few to no rote or mimicked phrases. Pouring out of one’s heart cannot be contained in trite statements that have long ago lost potency due to overuse.
The blessings of mighty prayer include peace, assurance, spiritual experience, revelation, sanctification, unity with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
Holy Spirit Experiences
There is really no substitute for experiences with the Holy Spirit. We should plead to have these experiences which we are entitled to as we live the covenants we make and renew each week. We often speak of the function of the Holy Spirit being to testify of the Father and the Son. That is only one of the functions, and to me, it is not the most important function. There are two ways the spirit works that deserve particular mention due to lack of attention. One is sanction which enjoys, interestingly, the same root as sanctification. The Holy Spirit puts his stamp of approval on righteous activities. That is one of the ways we know the activity is righteous. In my experience, I can count on, without fail, the spirit being present when there is any pure repentance going on and when there is selfless service.
A few years ago there was a study done that attempted to find ways to get young single adults to marry more frequently. The group doing the study found that one stake was marrying off double the number as the other stakes at BYU. The group asked that stake president what he was doing to be so successful. They were astounded when he responded, “We have done away with all activities.” He then explained that activities had been replaced by service projects then the stake president explained, “When a young man and a young woman serve side by side, they become beautiful to each other. Courtship follows then marriage.” I believe this beautification is a function of the Holy Spirit.
The second way the spirit works is as an eternal, powerful bonding agent. It is fascinating, that when two people are involved in repentance together, even when one is hearing and the other is confessing, and when two or more people serve together, the spirit binds those people together. It is a similar function to the sealing power which is also a function of the Holy Spirit.
I have purposefully not used the term “scripture study” because I want to convey the idea of allowing for dialogue between us and the scriptures. When we engage in scriptural communion, we are allowing for the possibility that we can ask questions and expect the scriptures to answer but also, we allow the scriptures to ask questions of us. Here is an example: We may study the story of the Good Samaritan and conclude that the Samaritan was really great and that the priest and levite were bad. If we commune, the spirit can ask of us which one we are. Then it may further ask, “what about the private war you are waging against Sister Jones because of her snotty daughter?” It is then that we are in communion with scripture and it can change us.
If you need to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ so that you can trust him, there is really no substitute for the Book of Mormon. Communion with that book will draw you closer to God than any other book.
We have been given a workable experiment recently with the inspired emphasis on Sabbath Day observance. One way to regain or gain trust in Jesus would be to test him on this. He has promised us specific blessings for our pure observance of this day. May I suggest that we put him to the test. See what happens as you strive to change your Sabbath Day worship. When you see the fruits of your observance, trust in other things will grow.
May I close with the suggestion that if we do not trust Jesus, it is because we do not know Jesus. Our coming to know him through mighty prayer, Holy Spirit experiences and scriptural communion will make all the difference and we will be able to say, like nephi, “nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen