The “psalm of Nephi” is one of my absolute favorite parts of the Book of Mormon. It is wonderful to be able to get a better sense of Nephi through not only his strengths, but also through his vulnerabilities. Nephi writes movingly here of the tender blessings that he has received, but also of his flaws and limitations. He feels weak and unworthy of the incredible blessings that he has received. Haven’t we all felt that way in moments of weakness or anger?
At this moment of introspection, Nephi seems to look back at the moments where the lord has blessed him, in order to draw strength and comfort. He “ponder[s] continually upon the things which [he] ha[s] seen and heard.” In effect, Nephi provides a prophetic gloss on all of the experiences that have come before. Nephi in particular mentions several blessings from the Lord, which I wish to highlight.
First, Nephi has received great knowledge of God’s “great and marvelous works”. We have already seen the incredible scope of Nephi’s vision. Few seers have been blessed with a greater and more encompassing vision of God’s plan.
Second, God has supported Nephi through his afflictions and in particular in his afflictions on the sea. Nephi here seems to be revealing quite how heart-wrenching and difficult the experience on the sea truly was. Without his faith, Nephi would not have been able to endure the pain and sorrow.
Third, Nephi has been filled with love. This charity was a divine gift that Nephi badly needed in order to deal with the constant opposition from his brothers. It was needed in order to forgive them time and time again. Indeed, Nephi’s willingness to forgive his brothers is quite striking and moving.
Fourth, God has confounded Nephi’s enemies and caused them to quake before him. This hearksn back to two episodes from 1 Nephi. First, Zoram upon discovering Nephi’s identity, and second Nephi’s brothers when they confronted him at Bountiful. In these two moments, Nephi felt the Lord’s hand and guidance in particular.
Fifth, God has heard Nephi’s cry and given him great knowledge. Nephi has described many instance of this, from his need to find food for his family, to the building of his boat. The Lord has hearkened when Nephi has cried to him.
Sixth, Nephi has had angels minister to him. We saw this when he and his brothers went to get the plates. And Nephi was likely succored on the ocean and at other moments as well.
Seventh, Nephi was taken to exceedingly high mountains. This invokes both temporal and spiritual blessings. Temporally, this verse reminds of the guidance Nephi received while hunting, and the place where Nephi received guidance as to building the boat. Spiritually, high mountains clearly evokes temple blessings.
Eighth, Nephi refers to the great things he was told, and the fact that he was told not to write all of them. Nephi again and again returns to the great revelation which forms the center of his narrative and ministry.
Ninth, Nephi mentions the condescension of God. Again, he hearkens back to his great vision and to the tree of life. He has been given a personal and profound witness of the savior of the world. He has come to know of God’s tender mercy.
It is these experiences which Nephi calls upon in order to overcome his doubt, weakness and despair. Nephi’s narrative has been expertly crafted to help us, the reader, understand htese profound experiences and like Nephi rejoice at the tender mercies of God.