Early in the Book of Mormon, Lehi received direction from the Lord to gather his family and flee Jerusalem to be spared from the destruction of a wicked city. Not long after his family left, the Lord told Lehi his sons needed to return to the city to obtain the record of their fathers from Laban.
Nephi wanted to be obedient and responded to his father’s request with faith and optimism. “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 Nephi 3:7).
Nephi and his brothers — Laman, Lemuel and Sam — decided on a plan to retrieve the plates. After they "cast lots" they determined Laman would go and ask Laban for the record.
“Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house. And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father” (1 Nephi 3:11).
After hearing the request, Laban became angry and thrust Laman out of his presence, even threatening Laman’s life. Laman escaped and returned to his brothers discouraged. Because of the opposition, Laman and Lemuel wanted to give up and go back to their family in the wilderness.
Determined to fulfill what the Lord asked him to do, Nephi encouraged his brothers to have more faith in the Lord. Although they did not know exactly how it would be done, Nephi knew that if the Lord commanded it, He would help them find a way.
With a new plan in place, Nephi and his brothers tried a second time with similar results — they escaped alive but without the plates.
Rather than giving up, Nephi decided to try again.
Nephi sneaked to Laban’s home and saw a man "drunken with wine" lying on the ground. As he approached the man, Nephi recognized it was Laban. Even though it was not easy to do, under the direction of the Spirit Nephi killed Laban and obtained the plates.
In his conference address in October 1989, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1928-2015) spoke of Nephi’s efforts to obtain the plates of brass. Although his older brothers “murmured,” Nephi knew that he would be “favored of the Lord” because he chose not to murmur (1 Nephi 3:6).
“After two unsuccessful attempts, Nephi remained confident,” Elder Scott said. “He crept into the city toward the house of Laban without all the answers. He observed, ‘I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do’ (1 Nephi 4:6-7).
“Nephi was willing to try time and time again, using his best efforts. He expressed faith that he would be helped. He refused to be discouraged. But because he acted, had confidence in the Lord, was obedient and properly used his agency, he received guidance. He was inspired step after step to success.”
Although the Lord did eventually provide a way, it wasn’t on the first, or even the second attempt that Lehi’s sons were able to do “what the Lord commanded them.”
Oftentimes, it is after we have done all that we can do that the Lord reveals His plan for each one of us. It was through trial and error, persistence and following the Spirit that Nephi was able to do as the Lord asked.
Like Nephi, Church members today are asked to do difficult tasks. Whether it is heeding a spiritual prompting, serving in a calling or enduring trials, all will experience assignments from the Lord.
At times, we might feel inadequate, or may not know exactly how something is going to work out. Sometimes we stumble or become discouraged and question the direction we have received.
Some may even wonder if the direction came from the Lord, thinking to themselves, “If it is revelation from God it would not be so hard.”
Just as the Lord promised Nephi, as we put our trust in the Lord, all things will work out for our good and we will be “given power [to] accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 5:8).
In his October 2012 general conference address titled “Consider the Blessings,” President Thomas S. Monson spoke of fulfilling the Lord’s purposes:
“My brothers and sisters, the Lord’s purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit. I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands.”
President Monson is a living example of faithfully following the promptings of the Spirit. Many times in his life he has felt the impression to make a visit, not knowing why he was there or what he would say.
“I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives,” said President Monson.
Just as Nephi had courage the first, second and even third time he approached Laban, we also must respond to our Heavenly Father and Savior with the words found in the Primary song, “I will go; I will do the things the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey” (“Nephi’s courage,” Children’s Songbook, pg. 120-121).