Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The Hard Thing
I've been thinking a lot lately about Lehi's family. As you'll recall, Lehi and his family were quite well off for the time they lived. They had a nice home, plenty of money, and they owned a lot of neat things. However, they lived in a wicked time. Lehi was called upon by God to preach repentance to the people who lived in Jerusalem. This didn't go over very well. In fact, Lehi was warned to take his family and flee into the wilderness so their lives would be spared.
From what I understand, two of his sons weren't very happy about this idea. Laman and Lemuel balked a lot. To them this was a hard thing, giving up their home, their friends, and most of their wordly possessions to journey into the wilderness. They didn't think that things were that bad in Jerusalem. They didn't understand their father. They hated that their younger brother, Nephi, was following in their father's footsteps to the point that he was also starting to boss them around. It was not a good time.
Let's ponder for a moment. How easy would it be today to sit down with our children and say something like, "Kids, we live in a wicked time. We've tried to tell people to get their acts together, but they're not listening and they're going to be destroyed. More important, they hate our family for trying to do what's right and we need to leave. Tonight. All you can take with you are the basics. We will be living in the wilderness in a tent, so we can't take along things like I-pods, the Wii, cell phones, etc. Pack a few clothes and some food and we'll head out as soon as possible."
How many of us would be as obedient as Lehi, Sarah, Nephi or Sam? How many of us would lean more toward a Laman or Lemuel attitude? "This is a hard thing! What are you thinking?! We're leaving our nice warm home to live in a tent in the wilderness?!!! And we can't take the Wii?!! We have to leave our cell phones home?!!!"
Envision making that journey into the wilderness---some members of the family more cooperative than others. Then finally, after three arduous days, the tent(s) are pitched, we've stopped for a time, and it occurs to the head of the house that we've forgotten something very important. The oldest children are asked to journey back to retrieve that item. This does not go over well with a couple of them.
In 1 Nephi 3:5 Lehi speaks to his younger son, Nephi: " . . . now behold, thy brothers murmur saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord."
You know the rest of the story. This proves to be a difficult challenge for Nephi and his brothers. It takes three tries to obtain the brass plates, under harrowing conditions. And when they finally return to where their parents are camped, they are once again asked to return to Jerusalem for yet another errand, also important.
Human nature being what it is, I can envision the grumbling that took place among some of Lehi's posterity. And yet, those experiences were the testing ground for Lehi's family. These challenges shaped character and helped Nephi develop a strong testimony of the gospel. He was developing leadership qualities that may have come in no other way.
How often in life are we called upon to endure similar tests? We come to this earth to learn important things, and often the qualities or characteristics we most long to develop happen under duress. I look back over my own life and I know that the trials I've endured have taught me the most. I've been through things I would never want to experience ever again, but it is because of those things that I am who I am today. Hopefully that's a good thing. ;)
Currently, we live in a difficult time. The economy is a mess, and everywhere we look people are enduring horrific trials. It is easy to feel discouraged and more than a little picked on. I've been feeling that way myself lately. Our family has been hit right and left by challenges this month that would indicate 2009 might not be a piece of cake to wade through. And yet, there is hope. We are not left alone to endure these troubled times.
As Nephi so eloquently stated: "I will 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 prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Nephi 3:7)
I have learned and I'm constantly relearning that when I place my trust in the Lord, things seem to work out eventually. It may not always be as I envision, but I know that when I'm doing all I can to live up to who I should be, the Lord does indeed make up the difference needed. So this year, when life seems more than a little uncertain, I will try really hard to have more of a Nephi type of attitude. From time to time, I may slip into Laman mode. Hopefully I'll catch myself before I start to murmur about life being a hard thing. It very often is. In fact, I can't think of a time in the world's history when there weren't challenges to overcome. As my wise grandmother told me years ago, "This life is a giant classroom and we're all here to learn." May we learn from those who have gone on before and place our trust in the One who will help us through.