Nephi was an amazing teacher. In the Book of Mormon, he said, “...for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” I’ve seen for myself how beautiful it is to liken scriptures unto myself. In my own life, I’ve lived several scripture stories, personally. Here are lessons from a couple of them. I hope the insight is as enlightening and empowering to you as it was to me.
Lehi - Dream of the Tree of Life
May 30, 1992, Kieth and I were involved in an accident that briefly shot our lives to pieces. From May to the following General Conference in October, I felt a burning grow inside of me that felt like I was going to be consumed from the inside-out. I knew it wasn’t guilt; but I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it didn’t feel good.
At the same time, I continued to go to church, read my scriptures, attend the temple; no matter what I did, I couldn’t feel the Spirit. My prayers felt like they were just bouncing off the walls. I wasn’t sure what to do. In fact, a couple of times I wondered why I continued, when I no longer felt the Spirit. It was a challenging time. I prayed with all my heart that at conference time, someone would say something that would help me feel the Spirit.
At the time, Bry was three and Steve was two. We read to them out of our “purple Book of Mormon.” (Before the Children's picture version of the Book of Mormon was printed, the church would publish a new Book of Mormon story each month in the Friend magazine, and we cut them out, put them in plastic sheet protectors, and stored them in a purple binder, creating their own version of a child’s Book of Mormon.)
Each night the boys would grab their scriptures and pick their story. I remember, one night in particular, I didn’t feel up to reading with them but Bryan insisted; I told him to pick a story. Excited, he ran, got the purple binder and he chose his favorite story... Lehi’s Dream.
We had read that story so many times before. That night I didn’t bother reading it; I just told it in my own words as I pointed to the pictures in the story.
When we got to the part about the people holding to the rod as they walked towards the tree, I pointed to the next picture and said, “And as the people began to walk through the darkness, some held on to the rod, while others let go and walked off into the darkness and were lost.” I had often thought to myself that it was a silly story. What kind of a person would choose to let go of the rod when they were in the dark to risk wandering off and becoming lost? It didn’t make sense.
That night, something stuck out to me that I hadn’t caught before; but there it was in a child’s story. That’s what I was going through; the darkness. That’s when it hit me... we are all going to have periods in our lives that are dark. During those times, we will either choose to hold onto the rod and continue pressing forward; continue reading our scriptures, or going to church, or praying, even when we don’t feel the Spirit; or we will chose to stop doing those things, let go of the rod, and risk the possibility of getting lost in the darkness.
Wow! This was the first time I understood, the darkness was real, and good people will have to experience darkness at some time. The path to the tree of eternal life really does have dark spots along the way. When we come upon that darkness, will we cling to the rod and press forward? Will we let go? We will each have to make the choice for ourselves. I was beginning to see this was one of my turns to choose.
The following October, in General Conference, one of the General Authorities said in his talk something to the effect of, “Let your trials sanctify you.” Could the fire that I had felt inside for the past five months be a sanctification process? For the first time in those five months I felt a strong spiritual witness. That’s exactly what was happening to me. At that moment, the pain of the burning no longer felt destructive. The pain felt like a purifying heat. Sanctification truly is a purifying process.
Nephi - Building the ship
In 1 Ne. 17:7-9, The Lord commands Nephi to build a ship so that he and his family can cross the waters from the old world and come to the “promised land.” Being the great craftsman that he is, Nephi simply asks The Lord, “...wither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?” The first insight I was given is that ore is a “potential” tool.
By itself, ore is just a metal; but after it goes through a transformation, it can be reshaped into a useful tool that a craftsman can use. (It’s also interesting to note that in His earth life, the Savior was a carpenter. He truly is a master craftsman who can reshape our lives, if we let Him.)
The process of transforming ore into a tool requires that the ore be heated up to unbelievably hot temperatures. This melts the ore from a solid to a liquid and allows the ore to be reshaped. During this process, the impurities surface to the top where they can be removed as “dross.”
The refined and purified ore remains soft and pliable in it’s solid state. The purer the ore, the softer the metal. (It’s interesting to note that for the ore to remain hardened, the impurities have to be left in. I saw a vivid comparison with our hardened hearts and the impurities in our lives. I also thought of the heat of trials in our lives; could it be that the intense heat of those trials is meant to purify our lives? Could those different experiences we have help us become the tools the
Savior needs to accomplish His work on the earth?)
Once the tools were made, Nephi began the process of building the ship. The next insight came to me while I was preparing for a lesson in Relief Society. I had two distinct impressions come to me: one was a vivid image of the table displayed with different “tools” and the other was that I needed to call my friend, Julie. I began my conversation with Julie explaining to her that I was preparing to give a lesson the following Sunday that required a display of tools, but I wasn’t sure what for. As we began to talk, she shared with me how she had recently been inspired to use the tool of unconditional love in their family relationships.
BINGO! The insight came.
Just like Nephi, we have been commanded to build ships, at different times in our lives. There are at least three categories of ships: relationships, stewardships, and memberships, and within those categories are different ships:
Relationships: Fellowship, Friendship, Partnership, Companionship
Stewardships: Apostleship, Courtship, Craftsmanship, Dealership, Discipleship, Hardships, Leadership, Proprietorship,
Scholarship, Workmanship, Worship
Memberships: Citizenship, Sponsorship, Sportsmanship, Township
Different tools are needed to build different ships. Since relationships are so important in this life, let’s look at a few of those ships, and the tools it takes to build them.
Relationships Examples of Tools Needed
1. Friendship: Kindness, Respect, Forgiveness, Flexibility, Patience
2. Partnership: Confidence, Dedication, Hard work, Trust, Dependability
3. Companionship: Loyalty, Love, Devotion, Commitment, Endurance
Notice how each ship adds to the others; they build off of each other; they strengthen one another. It’s important to build off of the foundation of friendship; as we move on to partnerships, even the quality of tools improve. Combining the tools developed in friendship and partnership add so much to the quality of our companionship.
Notice the strength and quality of the tools as the relationship grows. As the ship progresses from friendship to partnership, and partnership to companionship, all of the preceding tools continue to solidify the quality of the next ship.
A basic friendship will need the tools of kindness, forgiveness, respect, flexibility, and patience. As that friendship grows stronger, it actually becomes more like a partnership. There we develop tools of confidence, dedication, trust, dependability, both working hard. In time, that beautiful relationship becomes a companionship filled with loyalty, love, devotion, commitment, and endurance. Each ship builds on the other, making it stronger and more beautiful.
Isn’t it something to know that the trials and challenges in our lives not only help us learn, they help develop the tools of kindness, patience, endurance, or any other tool we need to build different ships, like friendships, partnerships, and companionships. These ships can carry us across the deep waters of life, if they are built well.
The heat from those trials also helps remove impurities from our lives. As we become refined and pure, the Lord can literally reshape our lives to make of us the tools He needs to further His Divine plan. Fascinating. We not only need tools, we become tools.
By likening scriptures to ourselves, we can gain a deeper insight, a clearer vision, and a brighter hope to: the possibilities in life, our purpose and mission, and the opportunities around us. Each scripture story has treasures for us to discover, making it fun to liken scriptures unto ourselves.