I love, love, love the story of Nephi and his family in the book of 1st Nephi. There is so much cool stuff that’s going on, and we get to see the details of a person’s life in much detail. There’s nowhere else in the scriptures that someone’s life is given so much detail to their daily life and interactions with others. I would argue that it’s even more detailed than the Gospels, because we have greater amounts of text in one situation, time an time again.
I love examples from people’s lives, because for me it brings it home a lot to the realm of practicality. It’s easy for me to forget that life is full of both short-term and long-term application. I tend to focus on the here and now of productivity, and don’t think much about the long-term stuff. These samples of personal life are really rare in the scriptures.
One story that I love so much in the Old Testament is a great example, that I come back to so much. It’s in 2 Kings 4:8-11:
8. And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
9. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
10. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
11. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.
The lesson here is, that the woman recognized that something good had come into her life, and she made room for it that it could stay longer. There’s a lot more to the story that can be picked apart, such as the specific items, and how it was his decision as to when to come by and for how long (which is how Christ acts as well, in his actual appearances to people). You could dwell on the spiritual perception of the woman as well, how she not only noticed his positive attributes, but also knew what he would need. Also, she was prepared, since she was ready to feed him whenever he came by — which too demonstrates that she was selfless and happy to serve. There’s no mention made of the sacrifices she’d have to make in her life or her schedule to see that the prophet was made comfortable. Surely there were some, but they are not a part of the story, in the sense that they meant little to her. So it is in the lives of selfless people who serve — they discount the sacrifices they have to make, considering them of little worth compared to the benefits.
Anyway. Back to Nephi’s life. I’m reading in 1 Nephi 16 right now. This is the chapter where Lehi finds the Liahona on the ground one morning. They use it in their journey to the promised land, to guide them. The Liahona in itself is a type of the scriptures, in that there are so many parallels. However, the one I really like is how the Lord uses it.
Lehi and the rest of his camp had been complaining about the lack of food, but more particularly, had been doubting in the Lord and complaining against him. After they repent and are chastised by the Lord, he then directs them to look at the Liahona:
26. And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.
It’s these three scriptures that really stand out to me. First of all, it shows how the Lord acts in a certain situation. He points us to use the resources that he has already given us. The Lord did talk to his prophet, and he could have talked to the entire camp if he wanted to, but it’s more practical to let everyone have access to the scriptures, so that they can read them at any time, as they want, and ponder on them. Plus, it gives them the opportunity and choice to actually look to them or not.
It’s the second part that I find really cool, too, in that it is exactly how the scriptures work:
29. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
The words always stay the same, but the meaning changes, based on life circumstances, or on the level of spirituality that we have at the time. I’ve seen this principle in action over and over in my life. One thing that makes a big difference, is how closely I’m studying the scriptures. If I’m just reading them, compared to doing a study, or thinking about them during my day or whatever.
28. 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.
Five important elements there: reading the scriptures (he beheld the pointers), acting on them (faith), persisting in living the gospel (diligence) with conviction and determination, not indifference (heed), which are all brought about by our own choice (“which we did give unto them”).
Good stuff. :)