We often spend a lot of time on Nephi’s declaration in the first verse of the Book of Mormon. If we are not careful, we miss the remarkable message of the rest of chapter one. Right from the first chapter, the Book of Mormon offers a forceful invitation to embrace and acknowledge God’s participation in our lives.
In the fifth verse, Nephi tells us that Lehi prays “with all his heart, in behalf of his people.” As he prayed, “there came a pillar of fire . . . and he saw and heard much.”
Lehi headed home reflecting on his experience. The Spirit came.
And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. (v. 8)
Wow! What a remarkable experience—one that would later be quoted verbatim by Alma (Alma 36:22)!
But that’s not all. Lehi saw One descend from heaven along with twelve others. One gave him a book. Lehi declared:
Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish! (v. 14)
The heavens are open, Lehi rejoices, and redemptiveness is assured!
And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account. (v. 16)
Could the message be any clearer? God is not the remote observer of our lives. He is a participant, a partner, a collaborator, and an educator.
God may participate in our lives differently from the way He participated in Lehi’s life, but the clear message is that God does participate in His children’s lives.
Do we notice?
For example, what heavenly truths has God sent to you today?
Every day I make two records. On the large plates of Wally, I record a secular history—I write down what happened that day. Each day I write about forty words in the 2” by 2” square of a calendar. It takes only a few minutes.
On the small plates of Wally—a more traditional journal—I write sacred things—the ideas that erupted, the connections that uplifted, the books and videos that inspired. The people encountered who ministered to me in some way. Opportunities given to me to minister to others. Each day I write only about 10-20 words, simply listing those places where I saw God blessing me and the people I love.
So, in some ways my record is very different from 1 Nephi 1 but very similar in others. I did not see a pillar of fire this week, but I was uplifted by a talk from the Restore conference. I was not overcome by the Spirit and carried away in a vision, but the Lord showed Nancy and me very clearly how we can help our Syrian refugee friends. I did not see God sitting upon His throne, but I rejoiced in truths He revealed to me for our upcoming marriage retreat. I did not see one descending out of the midst of heaven, but a beloved brother came to visit, and I was uplifted by his goodness.
I am glad for Lehi-like experiences and recognize that God was sending exactly those experiences that fit my life right now.
Nephi concludes chapter 1 with the words, “I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (v. 20).
While we see the sacred in our worship, scripture study, and prayers, most of our days are spent focused on the demands of home life, work, and our busy calendar commitments. Maybe during those times, we operate on our own, not inviting God to partner with us. We don’t think to accept His eager offer to teach, guide, inspire, strengthen, comfort, and bless us throughout all aspects of our daily living. Maybe we don’t even notice His presence and welcome His offer.
One of the first invitations of the Book of Mormon is to recognize, remember, and treasure God’s participation in our lives—the ways He delivers us from ignorance, aloneness, and weakness. How might you invite God more into your everyday life? How might you better recognize and remember His participation in your life in a way that is meaningful to you? Would recording God’s participation in your life inspire you and bless your descendants?
Invitation: If you are interested in applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the challenges of marriage, please join us in our next marriage retreat Create a Better Marriage Using Jesus’ Principles on February 10. Attendance is limited to about a dozen couples. The one-day experience in Alpine, Utah costs $199 per couple. Scholarships are available. To register, see the link at DrWally.com
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her wise suggestions for this article.
See Miller, A. S. (Ed.) (2017). A Dream, a Rock, and a Pillar of fire: Reading 1 Nephi 1. Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.