Sunday, May 21, 2006

Obedience and the Power of God

Consider these two passages of scripture: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.1 Ne 3:7

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.D&C 124: 49

In the spirit of our contradictory commandment discussion a few weeks back, do these two passages contradict each other? If not, explain.


Nick said...

At first glance, BOM says that if God commands it, it will always be possible to do it, while D&C says that sometimes it might not be possible. Possible reconciliations:
1.) Nephi just mispoke and meant to say God will ALMOST always provide a way to accomplish...., (or possibly just shortened it for brevity's sake, I mean they were writing in reformed egyptian after all...)
2.)God always does provide a way, but we don't always see the way he provides, so that even though we've worked our butts off (fulfilling the requirement in D&C), we just weren't bright enough to figure it out.

Theres more but I've got to go.

randy said...

As with other gospel topics, I'd say that I defer this one to the Spirit. Nephi was working under the Spirit, and so he knew that he had to keep trying even though their way was hedged up two times previously.

It's not inconceivable (okay, so I just wanted to write that word... it always makes me think of Jenny's dad), and was probably the case in the D&C passage, that the Lord commanded something and the saints gave it a good go around, but things really didn't go well for them. Perhaps in these cases, it wasn't the end result that was important (in Nephi's case, getting the brass plates was essential), but the process of effort and obedience that was key. Are we being graded on results, or on effort? I think it totally depends on the commandment.

Jared said...

I don't think that Nephi misspoke. I believe that the Lord does always provide a way to accomplish what He commands us. Otherwise, why would we trust Him? I think that a God who gives us stuff to do without providing the means would not be a trustworthy God. His children would lose confidence in Him and they would cease to have faith.

I think Nick's second option is viable. A lot depends on us being spiritually sensitive so that we can find the way God has prepared. Many times it is not what we would have thought of. Take this example of the brass plates: Nephi and his brothers thought of sending Laman, the eldest brother, to ask. Then they thought of trying to buy the plates far above market price. But those weren't the ways the Lord prepared. Nephi never would have considered chopping of a drunk Laban's head as the Lord's way, but because he was spiritually prepared, the Lord was able to show him. The same thing happens all the time in scripture and in modern dealings with God. Gideon never would have considered that 300 Israelites vs. 135,000 Middianites was God's way He had prepared, etc.

I also think Randy's point about the process has value. Sometimes we don't understand what God is really commanding us to do. Were the Saints really supposed to get the temple built in Far West? Or were they supposed to make every effort possible to build a temple in Far West and learn and benefit from their experiences? I don't think that the second interpretation is necessarily wrong.

One more thing (wow, this is a long comment) is the possibility that in spite of the way God prepared, other people and their pesky agency can hedge up the way. God prepared a way for Alma to find personal hope and help among the people of Ammonihah through Amulek. What if Amulek had chosen to ignore the vision he had? God could not force Amulek to act as the way He had prepared. I think this is often the case. God surely prepared a way for the Saints to finish their temples, but if the people of Missouri chose to rebel and fight against the Saints and prevent construction, they had the agency to do so. So what is the price of standing in the way of God's means that He has prepared?

JonnyF said...

My opinion:
I agree with Randy, God has purposes in his commands that we often don't understand. When the Persians released the Jews from captivity, they had to rebuild the temple and the city walls with sword in one hand and tool in the other. For them, like Nephi, in hindsight we can see that the Lord wanted it done and helped them accomplish the task.
In the case of the temple in Far West, the Lord didn't help as much as he could have, (Despite agency He is omnipotent. Think extremely precise hailstorms) so I think that the perhaps the saints had learned what they needed to. The Lord sometimes lets the wicked succeed, rather than preventing their intentions, so their actions can stand as a witness against them. The second passage is acknowledging that he is releasing the righteous from the commandment (because they have new ones) and not holding them accountable for the actions of others.
To clarify, I might insert a comment, like "... and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work because I did not plague them with a constant hailstorm directly over their heads, behold, it behooveth..." Of course I am joking about modifying the passage, but I think you get my point.