CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 16.
The last chapter, 1 Nephi 15, was packed full of deep doctrine and layers of principles and tons of revelation-inspiring-thoughts-to-ponder. Even for someone who wants to know, it is a lot to soak in. For someone who doesn’t want to know, like the murmuring brothers of Nephi, it is almost too much.
The first verse of this chapter opens with their response “Thou has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.”
Nephi points out to them that these things are only hard to those who don’t want to know them, but that these teachings give hope to those who want to know the truth.
So, says Nephi (still not giving up on his brothers), if you want to be righteous and if you are willing to hear the truth, then do it! But he also calls them out by saying that if they were already walking uprightly before God, then they would not be murmurming. He encourages them to keep the commandments of the Lord with all diligence.
This turns out to be a good talk for his brothers, and “they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes for them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness” (verse 5).
That verse always gets my attention, because I know that feeling – like Lehi wanting his family to taste the fruit… but I also wonder if those who helped me get baptized ever felt that way about me, having joy and great hopes for me, that I might walk the paths of righteousness. I know it is the love and care and teaching of so many that have helped me along the way, and I do thank the Lord for using them to accomplish His work, and do try to pay attention to what the Spirit teaches me through these people.
So now, after all this teaching, after all this Spirit tutoring, the adventures continue. Thus far Lehi’s family has left Jerusalem, his sons went back to fetch the records, they brought back wives for marriage, Lehi shared his dream-vision, Nephi prayed about what it meant, and the murmuring brothers are once again quite and obedient (temporarily).
Now back to the story: Nephi says that he and his brothers got married, and that Lehi tells everyone it is time to journey into the wilderness.
“And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (verse 10).
So they follow the way this ball points, traveling through the wilderness.
While in the wilderness, Nephi and his brothers use bows and arrows to obtain food, as well as slings with stones.
When his brothers cannot get food, they go back to complaining, to murmuring.
When Nephi is ready to go get food (before even trying, you might notice) he asks his father (priesthood holder and prophet) where to get food.
He and his father pray about it to know where to go.
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball… And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (verse 26, 28).
I love this story, because it is this ball that works like a compass, except instead of it pointing north it points in the direction that the Lord wants them to go. It is a type, symbolic of the Spirit. For us, the Holy Spirit uses revelation, scriptures, leaders and each of us for each other as ways of showing us which ways to go. But even now, that only works if we are paying attention and doing what it says. The Holy Spirit (and the revelatory process) works only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed (obedience) we give it.
“And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (verse 29).
So Nephi goes where he is told, and is able to get food for his family. When he brings the food back, they are full of joy (I would be!), and “they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him” (verse 32).
They continue the journey, but soon mourn the loss of Ishmael, the friend from Jerusalem who came along for the journey. His daughters, now married to Nephi and his brothers, grieve their father. However, they let the grief get the better of them, rather than working it out in healthy ways and honoring their loss. They begin to complain about all the “afflictions in the wilderness”, and so the murmuring starts again. So much destruction comes from murmuring! These girls murmur so much, and get everyone else so stirred up, that people want to go back to Jerusalem.
So the murmuring brothers, Laman and Lemuel, plot to kill Lehi so that they can go back to Jerusalem. They also want to kill Nephi.
This is how they did “stir up their hearts to anger” (verse 38).
“And it came to pass that the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us…” (verse 39).