From the time Mormons are knee-high to a priesthood holder, they are taught the stories about Nephi and his brothers. Nephi honored both God and his father. His brothers, Laman and Lemuel, complained and rebelled. Yet, despite the fact that we’ve been taught these stories over and over again, somehow we seem to be missing the point-- How they got that way.
I hear grumblings in the church a lot lately. I hear them in the ward. I hear them on Facebook. There are grumblings about women and the priesthood.** There are grumblings about gay marriage. Sometimes the grumblings are about petty issues. They usually start with the phrase, “If I were in charge…”
With all due respect, and as someone who would sometimes do things differently herself, we are not in charge. Our job is to decide if we can sustain our leadership. If so, then get in the trenches and lift them up. Make their burden lighter. Magnify our callings. So, how do you decide if you can sustain your leadership on issues you feel differently? Do what Nephi did.
Nephi didn’t just say, “He’s our father and we’ll do what he says.” Nor will you have to say “The leadership says this so…”
Look at this verse that explains Nephi’s reaction when he was perplexed.
“Wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” 1 Nephi 2:16b
Therein lies the difference. Nephi sought out what the Lord wanted him to do. He didn’t go into it with his mind made up. He sincerely wanted to know the truth and was willing to honor whatever that was. I love that about Nephi.
Nephi then went to his brothers and explained to them the things the Spirit had made known to him. Sam believed. Laman and Lemuel still refused. Why were their hearts so blind to the truth? I have a couple of ideas.
1. It’s possible they refused to even seek the Lord. Maybe they didn’t want to know that what their father was saying was correct. They had in mind the world they wanted to live in and their father’s visions weren’t in line with that.
2. They looked “beyond the mark”. Jacob 4:14 talks about this.
“…they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall…”
One of the words we translate as sin in the New Testament, literally means “to miss the mark”. That is very interesting to me in light of the warning in Jacob 4:14. When we insist on looking beyond the mark, the standards that God has set, we’re not just missing the mark, we’re putting ourselves at risk of spiritual blindness.
If you’re someone who is struggling with leadership, may I suggest spending some sincere time in prayer asking Heavenly Father to help you see what is right and what is wrong. Do it with an open mind. I promise, if you do, you will find a peace like you have never experienced before. The peace that Nephi experienced when the Spirit enlarged his mind to understand.
**To my non-Mormon readers, I wanted to make a small note about women and the priesthood. What is not commonly known is that we don’t have a priesthood vocation. You don’t become a Mormon priest as a career. Even our bishops, who lead the local congregations, are unpaid and generally only serve for 5 years in addition to their normal vocation that they continue to work in order to support their families.