Episode 37. October 9, 2016. Today I want to give a shout out to the newest member of the Kunz family. Calvin Alexander Kunz was born early last Sunday morning in Provo, Utah. Congratulations to Garen and Kaitlin! Today I want to share some insight I gained this last week while studying chapter 3 in 2 Nephi.
In 2 Nephi chapter 3 Lehi is speaking to his youngest son Joseph. In the very first verse he says, “Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.”
As I read this statement, I was taken back by the power of the statement “in the days of my greatest sorrow”. As I reflected on the statement I was asking myself what could have caused Lehi so much sorrow that it was the most significant sorrow he experienced his entire life? I mean here is a man whose life was threatened in Jerusalem, who had to convince his entire family to leave everything and depart into the wilderness and who had to send his sons back to Jerusalem twice on errands, once to get the plates and once to ask Ishamel’s family to join them. He had to constantly put up with Laman and Lemuel’s murmuring and he had to help his wife Sariah through her own faith crises when her boys were late in returning with the plates from Jerusalem. During the journey to the new land when Laman and Lemuel tied Nephi to the ship and subsequently suffered through a terrible storm, the record in 1 Nephi chapter 18 says:
“Because of their [meaning Lehi and Sariah] grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave.”
From the beginning of the Book of Mormon up until Lehi’s death in 2 Nephi chapter 4, the word sorrow or sorrowful appears 13 times. Lehi was certainly no stranger to the concept of sorrow! And yet, despite all of these hardships over a period of 12-30 years, the greatest sorrow Lehi experienced was near the time of Joseph’s birth. So what was it that caused these deep and poignant feelings?
As I pondered this, the spirit enlightened me and I knew what it was, it was the incident with Nephi’s broken bow. So I decided to find the evidence to support this new-found understanding.
My study started all the way back in 1 Nephi chapter 2. It is here, in verse, 6 that we learn that the initial move from Jerusalem to the wilderness was a three-day journey. There Lehi’s family stayed for some period of time. From this camp, Lehi’s sons returned twice to Jerusalem. It was here that Lehi had his marvelous vision of the tree of life and it was here that Nephi prayed to see what his father had seen and then ended up seeing so much more, including the entire winding up scene of the earth, up to and including the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was here that the daughters of Ishmael married the sons of Lehi and Zoram. Shortly after the marriages, Lehi had a dream that it was time to depart into the wilderness and on awaking from that dream, found the Liahona outside his tent door to guide them in their journey.
So they gathered up every thing and everybody and off they went, traveling for four days, after which they camped again, obtained food and rested and again they were off, this time traveling “many days”, following the directions on the Liahona until they did again pitch their tents for the space of a time so they could again rest and obtain food for their families. But this time, they ran into some trouble.
It was here in Chapter 16 verse 18 that Nephi broke his bow and because his brother’s bows had already lost their spring and were useless, the families were “much fatigued and suffered for the want of food”. And it was here, in verse 20, that Lehi “began to murmur against the Lord his God”. I mentioned this event in last week’s episode 36, so will not go into it again here, but I do want to read verse 25, which is reporting on what happened after Lehi humbled himself and went to the Lord to ask where Nephi should go to hunt for food.
“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow.”
There it is! Lehi has been brought down completely into the depths of sorrow. Now I have done a search for this phrase “depth or depths of sorrow” throughout the entire scriptures, and it only appears once and that is in this verse. In fact the words “depth” and “sorrow” do not appear together in any other verse of scripture.
If we keep reading, 15 verses later, in first Nephi chapter 17 verse 1 it says: “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.” (note that the word affliction is used, but there is no reference to sorrow). This is the only reference to the birth of children during their time in the wilderness. In fact, four verses later in 1 Nephi 17:5, they arrive in Bountiful having wandered in the wilderness for 8 years.
I want to come back to Lehi for a moment. He was an important, worthy, righteous, diligent and obedient prophet of God. A contemporary of Jeremiah, it appears that he was absolutely fearless in doing what the Lord asked of him. He made some huge sacrifices, all in order to be obedient to the word of the Lord. So perhaps it is not surprising, given all that he sacrificed in order to follow the Lord, that the greatest sorrow he experienced his entire life was the one instance when he faltered, when, despite all he knew, and all he had experienced, he murmured because of their hardships. I believe there are a couple of great lessons for us in this.
The first lesson is that sin will always result in sorrow. In fact, the closer we are to our Savior JesusChrist, the greater sorrow we experience when we sin.
I will sight three examples. The first is from Matthew 27:3-5 and is the story of Judas. “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented
himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”
The second is that of Alma the Younger found in Alma chapter 36
“Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.”
And the third is the story of King David after committing adultery with Bathsheba and then sending her husband Uriah to the front lines to be killed. We can read about his sorrow in the fifty first Psalm. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.”
Okay, I think I have made the point, but I would be remiss if I left it there. Which brings me to the second lesson of this story. It is that there is relief from this sorrow, and that with the right attitude sorrow can move us to repentance, where we can find relief. In Ecclesiastes 7:3 we read, “ Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” And in Proverbs 15:13 “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”
Because we live in the Philippines, we watched General Conference this weekend instead of last weekend. In fact, it was just a few hours ago that we heard Elder Renland’s stirring talk on repentance in the closing session. What he said brings this topic to a fitting close.
“We can feel godly sorrow for our actions and, at the same time, feel the joy of having the Savior’s help. The fact that we can repent is the good news of the gospel! Guilt can be “swept away.” We can be filled with joy, receive a remission of our sins, and have “peace of conscience.” We can be freed from feelings of despair and the bondage of sin. We can be filled with the marvelous light of God and be “pained no more.” Repentance is not only possible but also joyful because of our Savior.”
It is no accident that it was Lehi that said this now famous phrase: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” Surely Lehi felt this same joy as repented of his murmuring and came back into favor with God.
I know that sin will always result in sorrow and I also know that repentance will always result in joy. May we all turn from our sorrow seek that joy in our individual lives. The atonement of Jesus Christ works. Like you, I know this from my own experiences.