As I was falling asleep Friday night, I was thinking that perhaps our prayers should be focused on outcomes instead of instruments. The outcome might be "providing for my family," and there might be a thousand instruments that would accomplish that (one particular job, a different particular job, rising asset prices, game shows, inheritance, et cetera). Unless we've been inspired to know which instrument to back, we're better off allowing the choice of instrument to be God's. Anyway, to test this theory, I looked to examples from the life of Nephi. There was a time Nephi backed a particular instrument ("give me strength to burst these cords") and instead received the outcome (becoming untied) through a different instrument (the cords fell off). And when it came to obtaining the plates of brass, he didn't back any particular instrument until he was inspired to kill Laban, and even then he refused the instrument at first.
At this point, I thought, "What was Laman and Lemuel's reaction to Nephi returning from Jerusalem and telling them, 'I just killed a guy'?" He must have appear a psychopath to them. For the rest of their lives, they had to think, "What if he decides to kill us, too?" Once Lehi died, they probably told themselves, "We have to kill Nephi before he kills us first." My point is, I could see the killing of Laban being a major stumbling block to Lehites following Nephi, like how things in (or supposed to be in) Joseph Smith's history are major stumbling blocks to people following him today. And I realized that maybe the Lord intentionally uses people who have complicated histories so there's tension between what your brain tells you and what the inspiration of the Holy Ghost tells you. I mean, Moses had a lot of baggage, from an Israelite perspective, right?
- It's convenient sometimes to present the gathering at the Bountiful temple (in 3 Nephi 11) as related to "safety" so then we can go from discussing the physical safety the Nephites received at the temple to the metaphorical safety we receive through regular temple attendance. But I don't think the analogy holds up chronologically. The destruction happens in the first month of the 34th year (3 Nephi 8:5) and the gathering at the temple happens "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year" (3 Nephi 10:18). It is said to be "soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven," which is thought to have happened 40 days after the Resurrection. So at the least we're talking about six weeks after the destruction. It seems clear to me that this wasn't a gathering for physical safety. Sorry, but find a more apt metaphor.
- 3 Nephi 10:16 gives more evidence of the identity of Zenos and Zenock that I've never noticed before. Mormon says the Lehites are "a remnant of their seed." It's possible the reason the plates of brass contained the writings of Zenos and Zenock is because they are ancestors of Lehi. While they contained a lot of what we would consider the Old Testament, they also had "a genealogy of [Lehi's] fathers" (1 Nephi 5:14). It seems Mormon is telling us Zenos and Zenock aren't just Israelite prophets, they are ancestors of Lehi.