In 2 Nephi 4, commonly referred to as “Nephi’s psalm,” there is an interesting pattern and reversal that centers around the word “because.” First, here is the list of things Nephi uses to justify his sorrows:
- my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;
- my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
- I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins
- my heart groaneth because of my sins
Nephi appears to be placing the blame on external influences for how he feels. He sees himself as a victim of these influences and in so doing, allows them to have power over him. Then we see a change in focus as he begins to question his own perspective. Nephi then begins to recall all of the amazing things that God has done for him in his life. This new focus prompts several “why should” questions in regards to those “because of” justifications.
- why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
- why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
- Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?
- Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
Nephi isn’t getting an answer to prayer here, he isn’t doing anything spectacular, he is simply thinking. He is revolving these issues in his mind and weighing them. In this process, he finds the power to shift his perspective and reorient his trajectory. Fortified with a renewed resolve, Nephi drops some firm covenantal “do nots” in opposition to those “because of” justifications.
- Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
- Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
Then, the final “because” comes into play:
“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (vs.32)
Nephi concludes that when you trust the arm of flesh, whether it is your own or that of others, you will experience failure and even tragedy. Nephi doesn’t mince words and straight up calls it a curse when you put your trust in fallible beings. Nephi realizes that even though he fails himself by giving in to sin, and others fail him by becoming his enemy, God has never failed him and never will.
“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; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (vs.34)
Through this, Nephi escapes his mental prison of victimhood and realizes the power that comes from faith in God. He will still sin, and he may never make peace with his enemies but God will always walk beside him. One will never find true peace in this world, not really, not lasting and fulfilling peace. When we put our trust in God and allow him to prove himself to us, we will find that peace that we seek.
The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You
There is a school of thought out there that I have come across that frowns upon certainty or is at least highly skeptical of it. Tolstoy’s quote points out how hard it can be to change one’s mind if they are “firmly persuaded” that they “already know”.
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”2 Nephi 9:28-29
“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”)2 Nephi 28:29-30
The scriptures from the Book of Mormon likewise talk about “know[ing] of themselves” and thinking that you “have enough” knowledge.Read Full Post