Written by Emilia Julian | December 1, 2019
Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet, is a hero to many Latter-day Saints. He exhibits so much faith, love, courage, obedience, and just as important–gratitude. I have personally gained great lessons from him, and I try each day to mirror his Christ-like examples–although probably not as easy as it may have come to Nephi.
When I am experiencing my trials, big or small, I often think about how strong and faithful Nephi remained throughout the hardships he experienced. How did he do that? How did he maintain a positive attitude through his afflictions? Is it a secret?
No, it is not. The answer to the question above lies in Nephi’s attitude and perspective on life. That is how Nephi maintained hope as he passed through his many difficult challenges and how we can gain our strength as we journey through our daily trials.
Today, we are all looking for something to uplift our souls. We need something in our lives that will bring us peace, hope, and encouragement. Nephi’s teachings in the Book of Mormon are an excellent guide to helping us maintain the hope, peace, and support we require day-to-day as we pass through our own stressful ordeals. And we don’t have to read too far into the Book of Mormon to receive this enlightening.
Last week I began reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning once again. It seems as though each time I start reading from 1 Nephi, I feel a familiar sense of that peace, hope, and encouragement that I am referring to above. In fact, right from the first chapter of 1 Nephi, he expresses his appreciation and gratitude for many things, thus teaching us the importance of thanksgiving.
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
First, Nephi begins with his appreciation for having righteous parents. He says, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents…”. And then he goes further by saying, “…therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.” Nephi acknowledged not only to himself but to all those that would someday read the plates upon which he was engraving his record, his gratitude toward the blessings of having goodly parents who taught him the gospel, and how to rely on the Lord. It was his father, Lehi, who saw the tree of life in a dream and was “desirous” that his family would partake of its fruit, which fruit was desirable above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:12). In Lehi’s dream and in life, Nephi did partake of the goodness of that fruit which was spoken of. He showed appreciation to his parents by living the gospel to the best of his ability and emulating his father’s example throughout his life. His parents were active and faithful and found joy in living the gospel. Nephi took notice of this at a very young age and also desired to live such a life of peace and joy, which could only be found in its fullness by living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Nephi had a way of emphasizing the positive points in his life. Rather than being angry with God for the circumstances he was in, he praised Him instead, recognizing that things could have been worse and thanking God for delivering him from his enemies and guiding his footsteps.
In the same first verse of 1 Nephi, after mentioning that he has “seen many afflictions” in his days, which was certainly not an exaggeration, he immediately says that he has been “highly favored of the Lord” in all his days. After all the adversity Nephi has experienced, especially while traveling through the wilderness, he still recognizes God’s hand in the many blessing he has had bestowed upon him and his family.
To put things into perspective, let us quickly review only but a few of the “many afflictions” in Nephi’s life:
- Laban tried to kill him and his brothers when they went back to Jerusalem to retrieve the plates of brass of which were in Laban’s possession at that time (1 Nephi 3:25).
- His family had spent 8 tough years in the wilderness, often suffering illnesses, hunger, and pain.
- He was nearly murdered several times by his rebellious brothers (1 Nephi 7:16, 1 Nephi 16:37, 1 Nephi 17:45, 2 Nephi 5:4).
- He experienced tremendous opposition from his brothers when the Lord had commanded Nephi to build a ship (1 Nephi 17).
- Then, while they embarked and traveled to the promised land, some members of the family became rebellious and bound Nephi to the ship (1 Nephi 18). With that, they endured a terrible tempest until Nephi was later freed.
As we can see, Nephi encountered much opposition, and yet, despite the afflictions that he had suffered, he concentrated on the many great blessings he had received from the Lord. Also, it is evident by the verse which we are referring to above, that one of those great blessings included gaining “a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God.”
Every one of us, at one time or another, will experience times when our world turns upsidedown, leaving us feeling frustrated, alone, confused, and lost. Although each of our situations may be unique, Nephi teaches us that we can control how much of the sting we choose to feel and how to deal with those times in a manner that will be pleasing to God, and in a way that will help us to find the peace and joy we desire to have in our lives.
Gratitude is a word we hear often, but one that many of us forget to apply to our lives while we are struggling with opposition. Real gratitude is having a thankful heart and a feeling of appreciation for the blessings we have received. As we cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we will most likely be led to those pleasant feelings of joy. In fact, we should make it a regular habit of expressing our gratitude to God and to others for their kindness, thoughtfulness, and love.
In Doctrine and Covenants 78:19, the Lord promised us that, “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” Gratitude uplifts a person. People who have the attitude of gratitude in their hearts are generally happier and are not mean-spirited or have bitterness or resentment about them. It is they that develop a real sense of appreciation who find peace and joy within themselves.
God commands us to be grateful. Each commandment that is given to us is provided to make blessings available to us as we are obedient and exercise our faith and agency.
Some might say, “There is not much I have to be grateful for as my world is crumbling.”
This happens when people focus more on having gratitude for things instead of looking at the eternal perspective. Most scriptures we read do not speak about gratitude for things. We should have an overall attitude of gratitude. It’s so easy to be grateful for things when conditions in our lives are going smoothly. But what about those times when we are experiencing turbulence?
An attitude of gratitude is a way of life that stands independent of our current situation. So, opposite of being thankful for things, perhaps we can focus more on being grateful in whatever circumstances we are experiencing.
The choice is ours to make. We can choose to wallow in our sorrows and wonder why life has dealt us rotten tomatoes, or we can, like Nephi, cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
When Nephi’s brothers tied him up on the ship, Nephi endured extreme pain for days while the ship was tossed around by a violent storm. By the time his brothers had loosened him from fear of being swallowed up in the depths of the sea, Nephi’s ankles and wrists were extremely sore and swollen. He had every reason to complain and feel resentment toward his brothers and the conditions they had left him in. Instead, Nephi said, “Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (1 Nephi 18:16).
We, too, can choose to be grateful, no matter what. Whether we are in the midst of light or darkness, we can choose to be grateful. Whether we are healthy or sick, we can choose to be thankful. Whether we are rich or poor, we can choose to be grateful.
When we have an attitude of gratitude in our circumstances, we will experience a true sense of harmony amid adversity. In other words, we can still give thanks when we experience pain, anger, or sorrow. Expressing gratitude by praising our Father in heaven shouldn’t only be happening after our trials have passed. After all, if we wait for that, we may be waiting forever, depending on the circumstances. Through the eyes of faith, we can look beyond our trials, whatever they may be, and express gratitude right from within our souls.
This is the kind of person that Nephi was. This is why I see Nephi as a hero to many. As disciples of Jesus Christ, Nephi is the kind of person we are commanded to be. As we become a Nephi-type of person, we will notice tremendously positive changes come to us, including gaining a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.