Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Five Brides for Four Brothers (1 Nephi 16, part one)

Chapter 16's got some stuff in it.  You got your "wicked take the truth to be hard" thing, a big wedding that gave a friend of mine his testimony of the BOM, the Liahona, Nephi breaking his bow, murmuring by the prophet of God, and Laman's bipolar disorder comes back.  This will probably take 2 posts at least. 
A friend of mine mentioned Cognitive Dissonance in his blog recently.  I learned that term in college and it really resonated with me, which is another word I learned in college: resonated.

The definitions and examples they taught us in class, I could take 'em or leave 'em, but this scripture coming to my mind while the prof was talking about it pretty much stuck with me, and I constantly overuse it to explain to myself why people fight against the truth:

1 Nephi 16: 1-3
1.  And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.

2.  And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

3.  And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.
Cognitive Dissonance, in other words, is:  What I believe my behavior should be is not matching up to what my behavior actually is, and this is making me feel bad.  To rid myself of this discomfort, I will either change my behavior or change my belief.

Example 1:  
  • I believe I should keep God's commandments
  • I don't keep God's commandments
  • I will repent and keep God's commandments

Example 2:
  • I believe I should keep God's commandments
  • I don't keep God's commandments
  • I don't believe God's commandments are that important
  • I don't like these people who hammer these commandments on my head
  • I don't like The Church
  • I need other people to not like The Church too so that I can be sure I'm right
I know I'm oversimplifying a complex issue, and I'm generalizing (and I hate it when I get generalized), but it is true in many a case.  Step number 3 in Example 1 may cause some to say, "Well, it ain't that easy, man."  Ha, tell me about it.  How many times have I had to wash, rinse, repeat; wash, rinse, repeat?  Have you heard this saying:  If at first you don't succeed, join the club?  The Nephies of us will keep trying as long as it takes, applying Faith and a belief in Christ's saving and enabling atonement.  The Lamans among us will give up on Example 1 because it's too hard, and join Example 2, even though, in reality, it's a much more difficult road.

The Dories among us will just keep swimming.

The Wedding

When I went on my mission for The Church, my first companion was a fellow named Peterman.  Elder Peterman had been out for 20 months of his 2 years.  A month prior to my arrival, Elder Peterman had had his first convert baptism.  This was a shock to me, for I had high hopes of the whole state of Kentucky joining The Church.  Anywayz, to the point.  Peterman shared this story with me:  He came out on his mission without a testimony of The Church.  He was obedient and worked hard his whole mission, and prayed consistently to know if the Book of Mormon was true and if, by association, The Church was true.  For 18 months he struggled, then his prayers were answered.  He was reading in the BOM one day, 1 Nephi 16, and came across this verse:

1 Nephi 16: 7
7.  And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.

Seems pretty simple and lacks extraordinariness, doesn't it?  In Elder Peterman's mind came a thought:  The Lord even remembered to provide a wife for Zoram.  When reading the scriptures, a person can have a thought come to them, and it may be inspiration or not.  There are thoughts, there are impressions, and there are revelations.  This was a revelation for Peterman from Heavenly Father, in answer to many prayers.  After having this thought about Zoram, Elder Peterman felt the Spirit so strongly that tears poured down his face.  He knew absolutely that the Book of Mormon was The Word of God, and that The Church was true.

Me & Peterman in our apt. -Feb 1987.
A month later he baptized his first family, then he trained me for 2 months, then he finished his mission as our Lexington Zone Leader.  He was quite a guy.

South, Southeast Direction

X = Lehi's camp.  Big blue things:  1= Red Sea; 2= Persian Gulf; 3= Indian Ocean, generally speaking.  Big brown thing:  4= Saudi Arabia.  Arrow = Direction of travel. 
So, it's time to go.  When setting out on a journey in this part of the world, it's best to travel with a GPS, a map, some water, and maybe some dehydrated food or MREs (meals ready to eat).  It would be nice to, at least, know where you are going.  

Lehi finds the Liahona. 
1 Nephi 16: 10, 13-14, & 16
10.  And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass.  And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.

13.  And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south
-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.

14.  ...And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea.

16.  And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness.

28.  And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
29.  And there was also written upon [it] a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of The Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it.  And thus we see that by small means The Lord can bring about great things.

So, this cool Liahona thing is pretty neato.  It's not only a compass that shows them how to get to their destination, but helps them stay in the more fertile parts of the land (a big plus in Saudi Arabia), and The Lord writes on it from time to time, giving them knowledge and understanding.  Sign me up, man.  I wish I had one of those.

Ah oh, I do have one of those.  It's called the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gospel shows me where to go, the best way to get there, how to stay healthy on the way, and teaches me the mysteries of heaven, just like Lehi's liahona. 

Oh, man!!!  You mean to tell me I've been making fun of how stupid Laman and Lemuel are because they had this miraculous liahona right in front of them and didn't follow it, and I'm just like them (sometimes)?  Man, I hate being a Laman.  As my wife says, "Shootest Begootest!"

We'll talk more about this when we reach Alma 37: 38-47 (in about 19 months, maybe).

Closing Arguments

You could say that Elder Peterman's mission experience was like a wilderness for him.  He lacked the knowledge he needed to be successful, and needed direction from The Lord.  Teaching people that The Church is true and that they would do well to be baptized must have been difficult when he wasn't sure whether it was true himself.  This became a moment of Cognitive Dissonance for him.  Through faith, obedience and diligence in following the gospel of Jesus Christ, Peterman was able to find his Liahona, the Book of Mormon.  And Heavenly Father wrote something on it for him to find in the morning:  The Lord even provided a wife for Zoram.

Through small means, The Lord can bring about great things.

Peace be with you...


  1. Great post. Thank you so much for sharing. My grandpa taught us, when we were children, that the Book of Mormon was true because, among many other reasons, Joseph Smith had never seen a river bed that didn't have water in it, so he wouldn't have known to write "they came to a river of water", what other kind of river is there? Anyway, little things in the scriptures can be big testimony builders, which is why we're commanded to gather the "spiritual" manna daily. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks, Rozy. "River of water," huh. I like it. Never thought of that :)

  3. Awesome post. I love how your companion's story of gaining a testimony is so simple, so approachable, so real. Humbling. Thanks!

  4. Great family is from the great state of Kentucky which makes this post even more touching! I had one of those Peterson moments just this week :) They always tell me i'm heading in the right direction!

    1. Thanks, Karm. I love Kentucky. So pretty there.

  5. I was just reading a Laman-Lemuel vs Nephi discussion in one of the groups I'm in your blog brings added insights. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great post.

    I was talking with a friend once about a simple experience someone had mentioned in their testimony. This friend was saying, "I have trouble believing the story."

    I asked her why.

    She said, "God doesn't just go around randomly giving people what they want. Just because they asked for help, doesn't mean they're going to get it. I think the incident was a coincidence."

    I was saddened by her response, because I considered it a lack of faith. Anyone can throw out "coincidence" as an "excuse" for what God does for us, but what's the power in that? But when we acknowledge His hand, and follow His will, He's more inclined to offer more of these small and simple miracles. He's not an omnipotent random giver, he's our loving, omnipotent, Heavenly Father, and He wants what's best for us, even when we don't fully understand what He's doing with us.

    Your post just got me thinking about this. Thanks for that!

    1. Hi Chas Hathaway,
      Thanks for commenting. What a great and appropriate testimony added to this post. It brought to my mind those sad moments when people who once felt a miracle had happened to them, and later wonder if it was just coincidence. Thanks for reading.

  7. Thanks for your fun and insightful post, John! I laugh, because, well besides the humor you add to your post, I noted two of these thoughts of yours in my scripture study online at (If you haven't tried online study, it is fabulous!! You'd love it!!):
    1. I noticed (or John Bytheway mentioned I think) that the couple situation with Zoram evened things up, but I noted that the Lord had provided the DAUGHTER of Ishmael a HUSBAND by bringing Zoram. Perspective, I guess. =)
    2. I included in my online notes, by the 'wicked taketh the truth to be hard scripture', that I used to use this one *against* my little brother (poor guy!) when we were arguing. But hindsight being 20/20, I regret that I did not learn more from Nephi regarding sibling relationships, because Nephi was always loving, so forgiving, always trying to lead them in the right path. I should have learned more from Nephi. Well, maybe I can pass my new insights on to my children. Thanks for your fantastic post!

    1. Hi Christy,
      Thanks for the very groovy and insightful comment. I also wish that I could "frankly forgive" others like Nephi did. Between you and me, and I guess anyone else who reads this, I sure could have applied your #2 thought better yesterday :)