Saturday, March 26, 2011

1 Nephi 8

March 26, 2011

For quite some time, I've been toying with the idea of a personal scorecard to help me keep track of my daily goals and efforts.  I finally made that a reality just yesterday and I've begun keeping score.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I came across 1 Nephi 8:30 on the same day I finalized my personal scorecard.

"But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree."

When I read that verse, the phrases "caught hold", "press their way forward", and  "continually holding fast" really stood out.  To me, these imply that we don't leap ro jog along to the tree.  Rather, it almost sounds like a hard-fought ground battle where you have to really earn an inch.  It sounds like any person holding fast to that iron rod will intimately know every inch of that bar.  They don't just hold on to it a bit at arms length and occasionally let go while they run along the path.  There might even have been wind along that path and that to let go means immediate losses.  Perhaps the dark mist was so thick, you could not see the rod even if you were holding on to it.  There may have been zero visibility.

Anyway ... the phrases I mentioned implied certain things to me:

1) Daily, hourly ... constant reinforcement and recommitment
2) Constantly watching, assessing and adjusting

Those things, to me, sound a lot like what a scorecard accomplishes.

October 7, 2006

This chapter dicusses the tree of life vision that Lehi received. I’ve always thought that this could be an inspiring movie or film clip. Maybe someday someone will make it a reality.

In chapter 8 verse 12, Lehi reaches the tree and eats the fruit. After eating, he is “desirous that [his] family should partake of it also.” We shared this scripture often when we asked for references from members (referring to when I was serving as a full-time missionary). They have eaten of the fruit of the gospel and should be desirous that others enjoy the fruit or gospel.

Also, fathers can learn from the example of Lehi, in that we are to teach our family the gospel and then lead them by example. Upon eating of the fruit, Lehi immediately looked for his wife and children.

Lehi also sees the fate of many groups of people in his dream. In verse 21 he sees “numberless concourses of people … pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree.” He sees others commence in the path that leads to the tree, but then lose their way because of the mist of darkness. Others he sees catch hold of the iron rod and press forward until they reach the tree. Upon eating of the fruit, “they cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (v. 25). He also sees a large group of people occupying the great and spacious building. These mock and point the finger of scorn at those eating of the fruit (v. 27). And after some partake of the fruit, they look up to the building and see the people mocking them and some who see this mocking become ashamed. Feeling ashamed, these leave the security of the tree and become lost in “forbidden paths” (v. 28). Others were faithful and diligently sought the iron rod. Once they found it, they never let go until they reach the tree and eat of the fruit (v. 30). He also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards the great and spacious building and instead of reaching their goal, they either drown in the fountain or become lost in “strange roads” (v. 31-32).

It seems that there are three main groups: those who eat of the fruit and are not ashamed; those who eat the fruit and are ashamed and end up either becoming lost or finding the great and spacious building and end up mocking the others; and then there are those who are simply lost, never finding the tree and never reach the spacious building.

Obviously those who are truly happy and find real joy are the ones who find the tree and eat of the fruit and are not ashamed. Some of these people find the tree relatively easily. Others must work … they must press and cling to the iron rod. Once they reach the tree, they fall down with exhaustion and gladly eat of the fruit. We can see the similarities between these people in Lehi’s dream and those faithful saints who humbly keep the commandments and constantly serve others. They are the true disciples of Christ. How do they do it? They cling to the iron rod which is the word of God (Hymn 274). They read and study the scriptures every day and strive to apply the Saviors teachings in their lives. Once they do that, then they find the fruit and are happy. Lehi does not hide the fact that reaching the tree is hard work. He mentions “pressing forward” a number of times.

The other group of people are those who reach the tree, eat of the fruit and then become ashamed, either out of pure shame or because of the mocking and finger-pointing from those in the building. What does ashamed mean? It means feeling inferior, inadequate or embarrassed. Usually this feeling comes because one is not confident in his beliefs. He is more concerned about what others think of him rather than deriving feelings of approval from within or even from Above. It seems to me that feelings of shame (from living the Gospel) arise out of immaturity or unbelief. Of course, shame has its place in society. A man ought to be ashamed of himself if he did not use good manners, swore, abused others or cheated on his wife. In those instances, shame can be used to correct bad behavior. But in the Gospel context, we ought not to be ashamed of living a Christ-life life. Romans 1:16 teaches us that we should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

The last group of people never find the tree. We can probably assume that since they never find the tree, they never bothered to look for it or even desire to look for it. I tend to think that these are those who are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). They may stumble upon the truth, but since they don’t desire to really know it, they discount it. In addition to lack of desire, Satan will do all he can to keep people blind to the truth of the Gospel.

Verses 33 and 34 are wonderful verses. I really love them! These two verses contain the perfect solution for the saints of God when confronted with persecution. In my mind’s eye, I see Lehi in his tent telling his family about his dream. I see his white beard and hair and his hands trembling a little as he explained how great the multitude was that entered into that worldly building. And upon entering they pointed the finger of scorn at Lehi and those eating of the fruit of the tree of life. I can almost see lavishly dressed women and young men laughing and jaunting at those humble people below. Then, as Lehi continued, he gave the solution to the world’s persecutions. I can hear his trembling yet powerful and majestic prophetic voice similar to President Benson’s say, “but we heeded them not.” Every time I read that part and picture it in my mine, chills run down my spine. Lehi goes on to explain that “as many as heeded them, had fallen away." Those in the building were so prideful, that in stead of living up to the example of the true followers of Christ, they persecuted them in hopes of making the followers of Christ give up their quest for righteousness so that the prideful can feel better in sinning. As I read the Book of Mormon and look at Church history, it is the same. The saints were persecuted by the prideful – buy why? If the saints were so good and righteous and did not bother any one else, living in peace, why the persecution? It was pride. The prideful people didn’t want to improve or change their lives or standards of living so instead of living up to the example, they tried to eliminate the example.

Regarding verses 24 and 25, how many times in our lives, as saints, do we feel the Spirit or have a spiritual experience and then turn around and deny it? Not that we say that we deny it, but we deny it with our actions. I think Nephi put it best when he said in 1 Nephi 19:7 that men trample under their feet their God. He goes on to say that what he means by trample under their feet is that they set at naught the things of God. In other words, they think that the things of God are not to be taken seriously; they think that it is “good counsel” or advice, but not a commandment. The purpose of spiritual experiences is to help up progress towards perfection, not to just feel good. If we do not learn from our spiritual experiences, then we are looking at that building feeling ashamed that we took of the fruit of the tree of life. We trample God under our feet and set at naught his counsels. I am not proud of the few times I have had spiritual experiences, and then fell into temptation’s power the very next day. I feel much like Nephi when he expresses, “I desire to rejoice, [but] my heart groaneth because of my sins” (2 Nephi 4:19). Thank Father in Heaven for sending his son so that we can repent and receive forgiveness of our sins and correct our behavior. I hope that I will always learn from my spiritual experiences, and not set them at naught.

1 comment:

Jill said...

One thing that stuck out to me in this chapter was the fact that Lehi told his sons to "heed not" the people in the large and spacious building for those who heeded them had fallen away from the iron rod. So true in our lives. We must keep our focus centered on Christ so that we have power to overcome temptation and the world.

There is much persecution around us mormons and our beliefs. We have to look past it and love our neighbors and our enemies alike and treat them the way Christ would have us treat them.

It helps me to remember to have an eternal perspective and realize that this life is so short compared to the life we will have in the eternities. So a little mocking and scorning from the "world" is ok, we must hope for better things which are sure to come because of the atonement or our Lord.