Isn't it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.
R. Lee Sharpe
As I read this chapter I was reminded of R. Lee Sharpe's poem that talks about everything that Nephi speaks of. I read this poem in high school and remember putting into a book of poetry that I compiled. I have always loved it.
(Vs. 1) I am a Gentile. So as I read I thought about how Nephi was speaking to me. God's promise to me is that if I will hearken (listen) when he 1. manifests himself to me through word 2. manifests himself to me through power 3. and manifests himself to me through deed he will take away my stumbling blocks.
(Vs. 1.) Stumbling blocks -Every family has its blocks that it passes down in the form of tradition, habits, and attitudes. Why can some families take the same set of blocks and use them for good, while others are confused and tripped up by them? Why do I see in my own family's blocks what others that I love cannot? We are each given choice, but too often (I believe) that choice is confused by years of tradition that may or may not be true. God's words, power, and deeds are the only things that can truly help us learn how to use our blocks to step a little higher, to lift ourselves up and to step forward onto the path of our lives.
(Vs. 2) harden not their hearts - What is a hardened heart? How do we harden our heart? Why would we ever choose to harden our heart? I have closed my heart before. It was very painful. But when someone I have loved has hurt me deeply I closed my heart to them. God does not want us to close our heart to Him. He wants us to always feel of His love that he will give to us through the words, power and deeds of those who follow him. He has promised us great blessings if we will but listen to his words that are meant to soften our hearts for heaven's joy.
(Vs3) great pit which. digged for them - I believe in the adversary. I believe he purposefully digs pits of confusion, deceit, and darkness to lead us away. I know that what Nephi speaks of is true. God wants all of his children to return to him, so he prepared a way for the Gentiles to receive of his blessings. A great pit is like the stumbling blocks; it keeps me from being lifted up to His love.
(Vs. 7) a great and a marvelous work. everlasting.. - How do we learn to use our blocks as stepping-stone? How do I learn to understand that my blocks are mine alone? That my family can either learn to love and embrace them for all they can give me or shun them forever casting them as stumbling blocks? By reaching for and embracing the marvelous works, the everlasting love of our Savior's love
(Vs 7) convincing them of peace and life eternal - When we are convinced that we are part of God's plan, when we are convinced that all we have (all of our blocks) are for our benefit, when we are sure of God's love for us, then we can find for our family our own peace and life eternal.
(Vs7) both temporally and spiritually - Stumbling blocks are not just figurative. For our family they have been both. Alcoholism, smoking, lack of education, idol use of our time, language, respect, are just to name a few. I can see how when we have been tripped up by these spiritual faults our physical lives have suffered. Jobs, education, improvement, attitudes, arguments, etc. When, however, we choose (like the poem reads) to overcome and use our blocks for good (I have a family member who has been a prominent leader in AA for over thirty years and others who have embraced their creative talents and either taught art or written for over 50 years. . Etc.) We find peace and joy and leave the sorrow behind and find a way to contribute to society.
(Vs. 10) two churches only - I know that as I was growing up many of my peers would like to practice conjecture as to what this verse means and which are the only two churches? Personally I see this as not a physical place but rather as a manner of thinking. I can choose between God's word and Satan’s word. I can choose between a community of people who embrace God's word, power and actions or those who scorn it? I can choose between reading, viewing, and listening to ideas that lift me up to a greater understanding of God's love or to those that scorn it.
I do believe God's church exists on the earth. I do believe that His love guides us to the words that will help us unlock the key to turning our blocks into stepping-stones. I also believe that the path is there for those who are ready to receive it. I have been taught that God's love is all encompassing. It is for all who will hearken and listen. He is not a respecter of persons.
But once we have made our choice to not listen, then we are on our own, alone, surrounded by Satan's desires to continually trip us up. Figuratively speaking the two churches represent our choices that we use as either a stepping-stone to God or a stumbling block into our own sorrow.
(Vs. 29) an angel of the Lord did make them known unto me - I believe in angels. I know that there have been times in my life where angels have "made things known", and helped me out of predicaments. I believe that God sends his angels to spread it word, to facilitate his power and to initiate good deeds. As I read the words of Nephi, I was made aware by his testimony that all that he learned came from an angel. How many times has he already seen and heard from an angel thus far into his writings? Over 40 references thus far. Angels exist.
(Vs. 30) I was carried away in the spirit - so we can be carried away to Babylon, or carried away by the Spirit. I see yet another instance of how we can choose to create stumbling blocks in our lives and in the lives of our families or we can choose to allow the peace and learning of learning and letting God's spirit to carry us away. Where? Deeper thought, introspection, contemplation, a better plan, a greater joy, a new way of life, a change, a new realization of who we are.
So who am I?
I am a daughter of God who has the power of his word within me. This power affords me the choice to use God's power to turn my blocks from stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.