1 Nephi 9

1 Nephi 9 is another piece of editorial commentary by Nephi. In my thesis I briefly look at how the Book of Mormon really consists of a number of layers, with things like sermons or Lehi’s vision embedded in a narrative, but that the narrative itself is almost punctuated by the narrators such as Nephi or Mormon (who, incidently, wrote most of the Book of Mormon; a pet peeve of mine is when people quote something from the book of Alma and fail to realise it is Mormon who is speaking).

Anyhoo, what caught my eye today was the following:

Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.

1 Nephi 9:5-6

Nephi was obviously commanded to make the small plates for a good reason, but that reason (the 116 missing pages) lay thousands of years in the future. Obviously that says a lot about God’s omniscience, but Nephi never knew that reason. Likewise the Lord often has us doing things for reasons that appear unfathomable. And that can be uncomfortable, especially when stuff happens that appears to make what we want or what we think the Lord wants further away.

I have to confess that while I’ve gained an appreciation for the hymn Lead Kindly Light in the last decade, I’m not at the stage where I can bring myself to say “I do not ask to see the distant scene—one step enough for me”. Because I often still find myself wanting to see the distant scene, wanting to know how everything fits in, wanting to know that I haven’t irreversibly messed up and that there is still hope. But I gather, both from scriptures like this and my own experience, that often God wants something different. What He wants is for us to obey Him, to keeping taking those single steps into the darkness, trusting in his power and that all His actions are “for a wise purpose in him”, even if we know it not.

2020 Edit:

There is something about the way that Nephi says “And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel” in the 1st verse, that tickles at my mind so that I am sure more could be read from that, but I’m not sure what it is. It’s worthwhile noting, however, that Nephi has explicitly given us an abbreviated account:”…and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates”.

As I mentioned in writing the original post, Nephi’s narratorial interruption here is linked to the creation of the small plates (which hasn’t actually happened yet at this point of the narrative, but is what we are reading from), which of course was in anticipation of the episode of the missing 116 pages, which as I’ve written about elsewhere is one of the most defining examples of God’s omniscience and what might be termed foreknowledge of all things. As I noted originally, Nephi isn’t let into any of this, however (“which purpose I know not”, verse 5). We sometimes think of the gospel answering questions, and it does indeed answer to a degree some of the biggest questions in life, but very often the gospel will ask things of us, as the Lord asks Nephi, to do things we’re not in a position to understand yet, and may never be in this life, which reminds me of a Harold B. Lee quote:

It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give us courage through faith to go on in the face of questions to which we find no answer in our present status.

It’s also worth thinking about how – while he did not know it, and had no way of working it out – Nephi’s actions were to have pivotal influence 2,400 years later. We don’t know the future influence and role of our own actions, especially those that we have been inspired to do but which seem to be having little effect on the present.

Speaking of God’s omniscience, however, the last verse really caught my eye again, not for addressing the fact of his omniscience, but address why it is important for us to know and/or believe that he is:

But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.

(1 Nephi 9:6, my emphasis)

We we may not understand his omniscience (although I think episodes like this can be very illustrative), but it’s important to know/believe because it is tied to his capacity to perform his works and to fulfil his words, including his promises to us. If he did not know “all things from the beginning”, there’d be a chance he’d gotten things wrong, a chance that his promises wouldn’t come true. But he does, and so there isn’t. And so, to quote a revelation from the end-point of the saga of the small plates and 116 missing pages, because of God’s knowledge of all things:

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

(Doctrine & Covenants 3:1)

One thought on “1 Nephi 9

  1. Pingback: Words of Mormon – David's random ramblings

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