So, I've read the Book of Mormon before, probably more than a dozen times, maybe not as many times as I should have by now in my life, but enough times to be pretty familiar with the stories and principles taught there. And truth be told, like many LDS people, I have read these five chapters of the Book of Mormon probably close to a hundred times (because 1 Nephi is an easy and kind of fun read, so I "commit" to read the Book of Mormon and I get through 1 Nephi just fine...it's the brick wall in 2 Nephi that I have a hard time getting through!), but everytime I read them I seem to get a new insight. This time as I studied these chapters I had a couple of thoughts I am going to try to bring together to share with you.
First, as I always am, I was struck by the first couple of verses in the Book of Mormon. Why did Nephi start this way, why did he tell us he was born of "goodly parents"? I think it was because so many of US were born of "goodly parents"! This simple declaration allows us to have something immediately in common with Nephi and to relate to him right from the beginning. One of the student leaders teaching about this part of the Book of Mormon in my class this week mentioned that she had a hard childhood, and always before when she had substituted her name for Nephi's in this scripture that it made her sad, she said that through prayer this time she was struck with the knowledge that she does have "goodly parents" in her eternal parents, but she as her pondering and prayers continued she realized that while her own mortal parents were not perfect, they were trying, they were GOOD after all. I have been blessed in my life to have goodly parents, not perfect parents, they have made mistakes in their own lives and they have made mistakes as parents, but they have testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are trying their best to live the gospel, and everything they have ever done as parents was based in love for me. As a parent now myself I can see that even more clearly now than I ever have before. In one sentence in one verse of scripture Nephi has helped me to see the beauty of parenthood and to have a deeper love and understanding for my own parents and for my own role as a parent.
Second, I took a new insight from the commandment Lehi's family followed to leave Jerusalem. Can you imagine for a second that you are Sariah? Lehi is a man of means, they live a comfortable life in a big city, then one day your husband comes in and says, "I have had a vision from the Lord that the great city we live in will be destroyed, we need to leave". Not, "We need to move to another city we are aware of", not "We need to fortify our walls and prepare to fight", just "We need to leave". Can you imagine? We are a Navy family, and we are called upon by my husband's job to move often. It's hard to leave our friends and the life we have carved out for ourselves when we move, but we move in a car, to a place that we know, and we take ALL of our stuff with us! I think of the leap of faith that I consider it when I move and I have newfound love and respect for Sariah who followed her husband and did what the Lord asked when there is no way that that was an easy choice for her, I cannot imagine the faith it must have required and I hope that someday I can have faith like Sariah.
Finally, I was struck by 1 Nephi 3:6, not just verse 7 which is a verse that most people know, but verse 6, where Nephi is told "...go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured". I am good at doing what I should. Not great, but pretty good at doing what I should, but I'm probably not as "favored of the Lord" as I could be because I certainly have a tendency to murmur about those things I have to do. I want to be favored of the Lord, I want to work towards doing things with a cheerful heart, without complaint.
I love the scriptures, what a blessing it is to have them in our lives. I am grateful for Nephi and for the plainness with which he wrote to us about his life so that we could learn so much from him and use his example to gain insights into our own lives.