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1 Nephi 16-22: Taking the Right Next Steps in the Wilderness

Kyle Gill
February 2nd, 2020 · 2 min read

The chapters in this week’s Come, Follow Me study contained stories of hardship for the families traveling in the wilderness. The prompt from study suggested considering what we learn from trials and how we respond.

Asking the Right Questions: “Whither shall I go?”

I found it particularly insightful how Nephi responds to circumstances in both chapters 16 and 17. Both occasions offer some degree of frustration or uncertainty. The first, his bow breaks, leaving him unable to hunt food. His first response is action, but it’s also accompanied by this question to his father:

1 Nephi 16:23
23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

There are a number of possible options for Nephi:

  1. complain, ask “why me?”
  2. do nothing
  3. work on a solution and complain
  4. work on a solution
  5. work on a solution and ask “what next?”

The most beneficial outcome seems to come from #5 without exception.

In the next chapter, Nephi is confronted by the Lord with the colossal task of building a ship. In response to the Lord he says:

9 And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?

I had never found these stories as related as they are, though there are very strong and obvious parallels between Nephi’s response: “Whither shall I go?”, as well as getting to work literally building the solution to his problems. Lehi didn’t have to build a Liahona, but Nephi in back to back chapters finds himself working with his hands to make his next step to advance in the wilderness.

It can be hard to ask the right question when confronted with a difficult trial. The first most natural question tends to be “why?“. Nephi didn’t ask why me, and he also didn’t just say “ok” to the Lord, and go start building his boat any which way, or taking his bow out into the wilderness wherever it suited him: he asked “what’s next?“.

The Simpleness of the Way

Solutions to their families problems didn’t seem trivial, but there’s power in recognizing that power can come through small things.

Guidance changing according to Faith

The words on the Liahona guided Lehi, Ishmael, and clan in the wilderness. They are compared in Alma 37 to the “word of Christ”. There is an interesting caveat listed in Nephi’s description of the Liahona:

29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

Through the act of following the instructions on the Liahona, they eventually are led to the promised land. The caveat that the words changed from time to time according to faith and diligence is of import if the comparison is made to revelation and guidance. Just like revelation is received for the church, and we can receive revelation for our lives, sometimes our faith and diligence leads to new instructions that will help guide us even better towards a “promised land”. Home and visiting teaching versus mininstering is one example.

New instructions should be welcomed as improvements to the course for the promised land.

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