Scripture study yesterday got me thinking, so I put some thoughts to paper. Here's what came out:
One of the most important, yet often forgotten, doctrines of the Gospel is found in 2 Nephi 4:15-35. These verses are sometimes called “Nephi’s Psalm”. Nephi’s father Lehi has just passed away, and Nephi is alone as the family’s prophetic leader. Perhaps weighed down by this responsibility, coupled with the passing of his father, Nephi writes of his sadness at not living up to the blessings he has received. He recounts how he and his family have been led through the wilderness to a promised land, choice above all other lands. He has seen angels, been carried away to the tops of mountains, and had many marvelous visions. Yet he still falls prey to temptation. Indeed, in verse 27 he writes,
“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?”
There are a couple of important lessons to be gleaned from the verses to this point. First, it can be somewhat heartening to know that a person as righteous and close to God as Nephi is can still feel inadequate at times. There is a measure of comfort to be taken from the knowledge that even a prophet can feel overwhelmed by their weaknesses. Additionally, these verses teach us that the closer we get to righteousness, the more our own failings, however small they may be, become apparent to us.
The seminal lesson to be learned, though, is how Nephi deals with these feelings of failure.
“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support.
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.”
All of us, every one, can relate to Nephi’s feelings of depression and failure. We strive to do what’s right. We raise families, attend church meetings, fulfill our callings and reach out to those around us. It can seem overwhelming at times. Often, we fail to do what we know we ought. But do not let that recognition of our own weakness allow us to be led by Satan down a path of depression and discouragement. Those moments of failure are some of the most important moments of our lives. They offer us the opportunity to look heavenward, to know in whom we have trusted, and tie us ever closer to our Father in Heaven.
Too often we, like Nephi, have the light of truth shine on our small imperfections and we feel like we’ll never make it, that we’ll never be good enough. But that is not the message of the Gospel! The “good news” is that, through the Atonement, we can triumph over our sins. This is a marvelous promise. In the words of Ammon, “there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we.” And why should we rejoice? The Savior taught us why, when he appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland temple and said,
“Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice."
May our voices, like Nephi’s, forever ascend up to Him. For if they do, we will never despair.