Monday, October 14, 2013

Nephi’s Psalm

One of my heroes is the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi. For me, he is an example of steadfast faith and resolute obedience. His declaration “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:7) characterized his life. No matter what trial or tribulation confronted him, he never wavered in his determination to follow Heavenly Father. He is a stellar example of a true disciple.

One of the most beautiful passages in all of the Book of Mormon is a psalm written by Nephi. This psalm poetically teaches about the need to repent, to trust in God, to remember His goodness, and to seek His grace. Nephi wrote these passages at what must have been a very tender and troubling moment in his life. Lehi, Nephi’s beloved father, had recently died and Nephi was facing increasing persecution and dissension from his rebellious brothers, Laman and Lemuel. His poignant psalm begins with a deeply sorrowful description of the remorse Nephi feels for his sins. I wonder if an angry exchange with his brothers may have precipitated these agonizing feelings. He writes,

“O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins…” (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

Nephi uses pain laden language—wretched, sorroweth, grieveth, and groaneth—to describe the remorse he is feeling. He clearly is tormented by sin, but he refuses to wallow in his sins and the pain they have caused him. Instead he turns to God and recalls his many great blessings. He says,

“… Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” (2 Nephi 4:19-25)

Remembering his blessings is the balm that seems to sooth Nephi’s troubled soul and leads him to appeal to God for the mercy promised to the repentant. He writes,

O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?  Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul…Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” (2 Nephi 4:26-30)

But Nephi does more than just appeal for mercy, he prays for the strength to overcome his trials and temptations. He prayerfully writes,

“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road! O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way--but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.” (2 Nephi 4:31-35)

I love the words: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.” Trust is born of faith. From his earliest days, Nephi’s faith led him to have absolute trust in God and now, at this moment, he trusts that the Lord will grant his appeal for mercy and strength because He has done so in the past.

I am grateful to Nephi for writing so personally about the joy that can only come through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The passages of this psalm have comforted me throughout my life. Heavenly Father has blessed me just as He blessed Nephi. I trust that if I have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and repent then Heavenly Father will also grant my appeal for mercy and I will find relief and joy. This gives me hope.