1 Nephi 20:16: A Theme for my 19th Year

After I updated my blog about my birthday, I searched wordpress tags for “mission prep” because I wanted to see if I could find some other people doing similar things. After a while, I stumbled upon this post. 

Ordinarily I’m not a huge fan of games like this. In my experience, when I need answers, I need to search for them and ask in humble prayer for the Lord’s help in finding them. Finding answers to life’s questions is hard work. There’s no simple solution. Sincere Desire + Humble Prayer + Hard Work.

What stood out to me in this post, however, is that the game was being used as a tool to demonstrate the importance of EVERY scripture. By opening randomly to a verse and seeking for truths in what you find, you can come to an understanding and testimony that everything written within is essential and true. It still takes hard work to let the Spirit guide you in identifying these truths and how they answer your questions.

So, I tried it. For a variety of reasons I’ve been in a weird mood these past two days. I miss my family a lot. I’m stressed out about school. More than anything I just want to devote my time to study and preparing, but it seems so daunting. I didn’t know where to begin in planning my upcoming missionary preparation, and I felt that if there were ever a time I needed to start with a small thing, this was it.

And, as promised in the Doctrine & Covenants, out of small things proceeded that which was great. The first set of numbers I picked turned out to not exist, (clearly I need to get to know the Book of Mormon a little bit better) but the second set led me to this beautiful verse:

 16 Come ye near unto me; I have not spoken in asecret; from the beginning, from the time that it was declared have I spoken.

Wow. What an answer.

Perhaps it may not hit the readers of this post so profoundly as it did me. I know that we are cautioned about sharing spiritual experiences that others may not appreciate. I’m going to make an effort to be contemplative about what I choose to share on this blog, but as it is primarily about scripture study, and I’m using it as a place of reflection and response to what I read, I don’t feel weird about highlighting scriptures and sharing insights here.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what the context or original meaning of the verse was, but I felt prompted that the answer to my question was simply to do all I could to come unto Christ. It’s so much less about how much content I get through, and so much more about doing what I must to strengthen my testimony. The verse also seemed to be admonishing me to search the scriptures for his commandments, for the Lord has “not spoken in secret” and everything I must do to prepare is written there. The scriptures should be my number one source of mission prep material, not random RM’s blogs or pinterest accounts (although I’m super grateful those exist). The idea is that scriptures must always be the priority, because they apply to EVERYONE.

Having decided to adopt this as a theme while I planned my study schedule, I set out to find some more information on what was going on here. One of my favourite study tools is scriptures.byu.edu. I love this site. You can look up any scripture in the standard works and it will show you a list of every time a particular verse was referenced in a conference talk or other article from general authorities. It has been super helpful when I don’t understand a verse that I read or when I really enjoy a verse and want to read more about it.

I found basically nothing on this verse until I read the chapter heading and realized it was quoting Isaiah 48, which was cross-referenced to this paragraph in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

We know not what we shall be called to pass through before Zion is delivered and established; therefore, we have great need to live near to God, and always be in strict obedience to all His commandments, that we may have a conscience void of offense toward God and man.

I also read the entirety of the chapter, looking for more understanding. To be honest, I still find this section confusing. Perhaps because it’s not in context. I look forward to getting to 1 Nephi 20 in my study of the Book of Mormon and reading more about it in institute manuals and such. Here’s some other verses in this chapter that I liked:

 6 Thou hast seen and heard all this; and will ye anot declare them? And that I have showed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.

After reading the talk “Follow the Brethren” by Elder Boyd K. Packer, I’ve been trying to focus on asking “Lord, is it I?” [Matt. 26:22] when people are warned or chastised in the scriptures. I think this helps us to remember to apply instruction to our own lives and keep a humble attitude of persistent improvement. This verse was definitely one of those that made me question how well I appreciate the sacred truths I know.

10 For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of aaffliction.

This verse goes along quite nicely with an object lesson Brother Griffin (my Book of Mormon professor at BYU) used the other day in class. We were discussing being a better instrument in the Lord’s hands, and the process of making metal tools. He pointed out that it is only after the metal has been put through fire and softened that it can be shaped into the proper tool. In other words, you must endure trials and be humbled before the Lord can shape your heart and your mind into a useful servent to do His work. This was especially poignant for me as I was in the midst of a very academically challenging week, and wished I could focus more time on my religion classes as I was beginning to worry about not following my study plan. That lesson helped to remind me that the very act of going through a trial was strengthening my faith and helping me grow closer to God.

11 For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my aname to be polluted, and I will bnot give my glory unto another.

I think it’s interesting here how God says that he will not give His glory to another. In the chapter, it looks like the group of people He is speaking to is prone to idol worship. Does God really need us to praise Him? Is that why He demands that we recognize Him? No. WE need the opportunity to praise God. We need to recognize Him to recognize the source of our strength and blessings. If we do not know where our true strength lies, we won’t know which way to turn in times of need.

 18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my acommandments—then had thy bpeace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.

This is simply beautiful. I love these similes. I long for peace like a river and righteousness like waves of the sea. I think I want to write about this scripture (and what those analogies could symbolize) later.

21 And they athirsted not; he led them through the deserts; he caused the waters to flow out of the brock for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed out.

This verse immediately made me think of Hungering and thirsting after righteousness. If we are righteous and diligent  not only will we be protected and blessed, but our knowledge will increase. He can lead us in understanding through the deserts we don’t understand.

After this experience, I can definitely say that I’ll be trying this again. I think it’s a pretty good method of study when you’re beginning your study session and don’t really have a specific question or topic you want to search. Or even if you do, just starting somewhere and following references and links, letting the Spirit guide you, can lead you to answers.

SO WHAT?

Where’s the so what in all of this? Everything I need to know for my mission is there in my scriptures – I just need to learn to find it. That’s why I’m going to use this blog and a study schedule (which I should have posted by tomorrow) to study the content of the standard works by chapter, but also set aside a time to search by topic for answers relevant to my current situations. So what? I’ll plan, be diligent, and ponder, and I will be as prepared as possible to serve.

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