Journey through the Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 17 (Wading through Affliction)

Nephi

1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.
2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

Laman and Lemuel

20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.
21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.

I love the contrast between Nephi’s recitation of their experience in the wilderness and Laman and Lemuel’s recitation. It is clear from both accounts that the party suffered great deprivation and toil. Yet, Laman and Lemuel are exclusively focused on the suffering and difficulty. They remember all of the difficult times. And they long for their homes and possessions. In a way this is similar to how the children of Israel longed for the imagined honey and fine things of Egypt. They ignore the fact that had they remained, they would have been destroyed and only focus on the good things they have left behind.

Nephi doesn’t ignore the suffering, but he focuses instead on God’s grace and on the enabling power of Christ’s atonement. He emphasizes their miraculous deliverance and how God sustained them through their trials. He sees God’s strengthening hand in the fact that they bore their trials and become strong. He knows that without God’s help they would have been utterly lost.

When we face trials, we can choose to dwell on the negative experiences as Laman and Lemuel did. Or we can notice and acknowledge the hand of God. We don’t have to ignore or underplay our sorrow or affliction, but we can be uplifted and strengthened through our faith in Christ.

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