“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"he will be merciful unto you..forever" 2 Nephi 4: 1-12

Lehi speaking to Laman and Lemuel in the Valley and by the River
I cannot comprehend the love that Lehi must have felt for his son Laman, his first born. I can try but I am sure I will not come close. The love a parent feels for a child stands within its own realm. The love between father and son can be one of the greatest known to man.

While reading the first verses of 2 Nephi 4, I was struck at the imposition Laman's behavior puts Lehi in. I was struck even more by how he manages to maintain his integrity of faith and still express his love for his firstborn son. Lehi understood that the love he felt for God could only magnify the love he felt for his son. A love and life that began in Jerusalem.

Lehi's life before he left Jerusalem - what was it like? While we can really only give supposition to most of the facts, we  do know that he had great wealth. (1 Ne 3:22-24) That this wealth did not bring him joy can be deduced from his desire to forsake it and find security in the God of Abraham. Although we don't know much that occurred before his prophetic call, we do not that after his call (1 Ne 1:6) he finds great joy in the Lord. So great was this joy that he describes it as being "encircled about eternally in the arms of His love."(2 Ne 1:15) All he wants is for his "seed", like Joseph of Egypt's "seed"(2 Ne 4:2) to have the same joy and peace. He wants his son to know of God's love as he has known of God's love.

God's love is like that. It's joyful. It's life changing. When I read the scriptures and feel of their power, when I pray and feel of God's love in my life, all I want is for those I love to feel of it as I do. What I want most is to share the joy. Lehi's life changed and he only wanted to share the joy with Laman.
An Angel speaking to Laman and Lemuel

But how can Lehi convince Laman? Laman and Lemuel's behavior has caused great discontent, guilt, grievous sorrow, and even the promise of a curse. (1 Ne 2:23)

The promise of this curse came not through Lehi, but rather through Lehi's youngest son Nephi, who like Lehi had "great desires" and a "softened heart"(1 Ne 2:16). His belief caused him to speak to his brothers about their behavior and to then hear God's word. Nephi, not Lehi is promised that if his brothers rebel against him the Lord will "curse them even with a sore curse" (1 Ne 2:23).

Lehi must have taken Nephi's prophetic news with great disheartenment. He must have felt great sorrow with regards to the family discord. To suppose that the sibling rift was such that even his own impending death does little to convince them. Despite his disappointment he uses his faith to bestow blessings of promise upon his son. Despite his sorrow, he uses the power of prayer to sustain his faith and calls on the strength and promises of the prophets before him. (2 Ne 4:2)

After reading the prophecies of Joseph of Egypt concerning his own seed, (Nephi tells us that "there are not many greater," ) Lehi wants to do as Joseph did and leave a blessing upon the heads of all of his children.

Lehi understood the Lord makes covenants with those who love him and that the Lord's blessings and promises are sure. He calls his sons forth and bids them to listen.

As he contemplated the blessing he would give to Laman, Laman's contentious past must have given Lehi much pause. How many times had he and Laman and even a few of the sons of Ismael bound Nephi? or beat Nephi? or openly rebelled against Lehi? How often had he tried to teach them with his words? Only the fear of death and destruction keep them from returning to Jerusalem.

Yet Lehi loved Laban. He was his first born. He was his son. He was his seed. He loved him and wanted only to bless him with the goodness of the Lord's love.

This is where I realized that the love of Heavenly Father becomes our supreme example. Lehi realizes that he has taught them well. He quotes Proverbs 22:6 and tells them:

I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
He draws on the hope of his and Sarah's parenting skills. He draws on the hope of his love and concern for his son. But what if Nephi is right? What if Laman's choices have caused him to be cursed and cut off?

This is when I realized that even the best intentioned parent cannot ensure their children's salvation. Life is a gift that we receive from our parents, but salvation is a choice we make for ourselves. Aware that he can't ensure Laman's salvation, Lehi seeks to buy him more time.

Israel blessing Ephraim. Joseph is standing
Lehi was aware of the many prophetic covenants within his family line. He was aware of the Lord's own promises to him. His love for his own son is such that he does not wish him to be "cut off from "the Lord's" presence." (2 Ne 4:4) His love is such that all of his days he has tried to bring him "up in the way" in such a way that he would "not depart from it." (vs 5) Yet what if Lehi had erred? What if the guilt lay upon the parent? What if while in Jerusalem he had not taught Laman all that was required?

Lehi 's love was such that he accepts the curse upon his own head. He says in verse 6

If ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents." 

The mercy he feels for is own son is akin to the mercy that had been extended to him by an all loving God. For what does our Father in Heaven do for us, but say that if we will but come unto him all that we have done wrong can be answered through the atonement of Jesus Christ?

Lehi is not sure if Laman will be "cut off." He can not be sure about Laman's future choices and if he will bring a cursing upon his own head. Likewise he cannot be sure as to who to put the blame of Laman's transgressions, but he can and does know that the Lord's promises to Lehi are sure. So he promises Laman and all of his children, that they will not perish, but rather "He will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever."

The power of this blessing comes not from the fact that Laman's actions ensured his destruction, but rather that the love of Lehi for God ensured his existence. Lehi is aware of the difference.

He bestows the same blessing upon Lemuel's seed and then states "thou shalt not utterly be destroyed." To Nephi and Sam he promises that they will be "blessed in all thy days." The contrast between the two older sons blessings with their younger siblings seems small, but a lifetime of experience proves it to be much greater.

To the elder is given "mercy ...forever" and the promise of not being destroyed." To the younger  the promise of the land and a blessing of "all they days."

Why couldn't Lehi simply bless all of his sons with great promises from the Lord? Security? Eternal life? Joy? Peace? Because it was not his to give. As a patriarch he is bound by the promises of the Lord. These promises come to those who desire to dwell within the Lord's presence. They come to those whose actions prove their love.

That Lehi loved his sons is apparent. That he worried about the err of their way is also apparent. As a prophet of God and a father what a wonderful blessing he gives to all of his sons. What a wonderful blessing of mercy he gives to those who have not yet comprehended the love of God.

I am grateful to have understood this aspect of Lehi's love. I am glad to have mercy extended to me and feel certain that Laman and Lemuel shared a love for their father, if only for the promise of mercy that he extends to them. What a blessing it is to see this mercy fulfilled later within the pages of the Book of Mormon. Jacob points out a time when Laman's children were "more righteous" than the Nephites  (3 Ne 10:18). After Christ visited the continent there was even at time when the seed of Lehi shared no contention between them. (4 Ne 1:2).

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