Monday, November 06, 2006

1 Nephi 18

Nephi is a great prophet. He is the prime example of obedience, courage, discipline and faithfulness. After all the trials and tribulations he and his family went through to get to the ocean, you would think that Laman and Lemuel would be more supportive and believing. Despite their criticism of Nephi building a ship, the task was accomplished. Now that they were on the boat, they began to celebrate rudely.

It is really no stretch of the imagination that Laman and Lemuel and the others began to sing and dance and speak with "much rudeness" because they were bored. Plus, after laboring in the wilderness for several years, sitting idly on a ship must have been very difficult. How many times have we heard the saying "idle hands are the devil's workshop?" I remember my dad telling that to me a lot when I was a kid, especially when I said, "I'm bored." Instead of doing something constructive (such as reading the brass plates), they began to sing and dance and speak very rudely.

When Nephi exhorted them to be humble, they tied him up with cords. For three days and nights, in the violent storm, being tossed about, soaking wet and most likely without food, Nephi endured the torture. Not until on the forth day when they were about to capsize did Laman and Lemuel untie Nephi. Here is the lesson – Nephi looked unto God and praised him all day long. He did not even utter a word of complaint. After he prayed, the storm stopped and there was a great calm. Nephi doesn’t say what happened after the storm, but I imagine there was a lot of silence aboard the ship. I think that Laman and Lemuel had their tails between their legs.

What I learned from this whole chapter was that there are hard ways of doing things and easy way of doing things. Nephi could have easily scolded or even thrown Laman and Lemuel off board for tying up the “captain.” But he did not. Instead, he did what was most difficult – not complain and humbly supplicate the Lord for help. As I thought of this event, I began to think back to other chapters when Nephi could have taken the easy way out. He could have chosen not to return to Jerusalem twice. He could have given into his instincts and not killed Laban. Instead, he chose to do what the Lord commanded him and almost always, what the Lord commands is not easy. To do the ‘hard’ thing requires courage and discipline. It requires restraint when passion could easily be displayed. It requires determination when forward action needs to be taken.

As I thought of these qualities, I remembered the saying in the Notre Dame football locker room – “Play like a champion today.” A champion does not take the easy way out. He courageously disciplines himself to do what is right, to do it correctly, and to do it well.

Consistency is another attribute Nephi possesses.

Nephi consistently chose the right. He consistently listened to and obeyed the Lord. He never wavered (or at least we're not told when he wavered). Nephi wasn't remembered because he did ONE great thing. He is remembered for keeping the steady course and being an anchor.

I've been thinking about this idea a lot lately. Two little inspirational stories come to mind. First, I was reading a gentleman's blog a few months ago. He documented his failures and successes in following a chess tactics training regimen. He successfully finished that program. After that, he started another blog to document his plan to lose weight and to exercise more. In one of those posts, he talks about how anyone can run for an hour or bike for two hours or go to the gym for 4 hours, but the true test lies in being able to exercise day-in and day-out over a long period of time … a year or a lifetime. That has always stuck with me. I fall into the category of showing flashy brilliance for a day and then fade away for an entire week!

The other story comes from the movie Rocky. Rocky gets this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to box the champion Apollo Creed. There's practically no way Rocky can win. He trains his best, but deep down he knows that Apollo could knock the head right off him. The night before the fight, Rocky goes to The Spectrum and looks around. He goes home and gets in bed.

Rocky: I can't do it.
Adrian: What?
Rocky: I can't beat him.
Adrian: Apollo?
Rocky: Yeah. I been out there walkin' around, thinkin'. I mean, who am I kiddin'? I ain't even in the guy's league.
Adrian: What are we gonna do?
Rocky: I don't know.
Adrian: You worked so hard.
Rocky: Yeah, that don't matter. 'Cause I was nobody before.
Adrian: Don't say that.
Rocky: Ah come on, Adrian, it's true. I was nobody. But that don't matter either, you know? 'Cause I was thinkin', it really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

It is such a great scene. That is what we have to do in life in all that we do … go the distance. We don't need or have to go for the knockout. But the real challenge is whether we can go the distance or not … whether we can endure to the end or not; whether we can obey, study, pray day in and day out.

This is what Nephi did. He consistently kept on the road and endured.

ps ... I am pretty amazed that I can fit a reference to football, chess and Rocky in a single Book of Mormon commentary post.

No comments: