When I read and ponder 1 Nephi 17:35—“Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God”—I wonder what Nephi means when he says that some are favored of God. In what way does the Lord favor the righteous?
Many years ago when I was a district president, a father approached me following a district conference. One conference speaker had stated that every family should prepare to be sealed in the temple. This humble father desperately told me it was impossible for his family to do this, considering their number and the distance they lived from the temple. His meager income for the whole year would not even equal the amount of money needed for the trip.
I told him that even though a person might have millions in the bank, if he was not worthy to hold a temple recommend, those millions would not qualify him or his family to enter the temple. His family’s spiritual preparation must come before anything else. Then I added, “The money needed for this trip will follow later.”
After six months of spiritual preparation, this man and his entire family qualified for temple recommends. They were happy to be worthy to enter the temple but still had no way to pay for the trip. I counseled them to fast and pray and trust in God. Then, a few days before plans for the next temple trip were finalized, two couple missionaries came to my office and told me they had some friends who wished to sponsor worthy families and pay their travel expenses to the temple. When I announced these blessings from the Lord to this family, their joy was beyond description. Because of their faith and obedience, this family was blessed. Were they not “favored of God”?
We know that our Heavenly Father loves all of His children and wishes all to become like Him. Further, all men are saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. God has made the sun to shine on the evil and on the good and the rains to fall on the just and on the unjust (see Matt. 5:45). He is “no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:35).
Yet those who seek to do Heavenly Father’s will He favors by blessing them for their obedience. The Lord has declared, “Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). To those of His day, the Savior said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him” (John 14:21). The Lord further emphasized this blessing of the righteous in John 15:10: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (emphasis added).
The God of heaven has never made covenants that are independent of obedience and righteousness. It is common in our day to hear reference made to the unconditional love of God. If this expression is intended to convey the idea that all will enjoy the blessings of God to the same degree, regardless of what they do or how they live, such a notion is incompatible with the testimony of the scriptures and the voice of the Lord Himself. For instance, He has said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).1
Traveling to the promised land was as difficult for Nephi and his family as for Laman and his family. All endured hunger, heat, privation, and fatigue. Yet the outcome of the experiences was very different for the two families. One was blessed with faith, understanding, and a living testimony while the other remained unmoved and unchanged.
During these troublesome times when so many are in distress and seeking happiness and not finding it, the Lord and His choice servants have pointed out the way to true happiness. Living a righteous life, in obedience to the commandments of God, is the foundation upon which we must build to enjoy eternal happiness. The Lord stands ready to bless us. But if as individuals or as a people we fail to observe the commandments upon which the blessings are predicated, then the promise is no longer ours. The blessings will be realized by those who are obedient.
An experience my wife and I had several years ago illustrates the power of the Lord and how He can bless our lives if we rely on Him. My wife was in charge of catering food for a special banquet to be attended by numerous city leaders and many high-ranking national officials. The host of the event instructed my wife to prepare food for 350 people, emphasizing repeatedly the importance of the occasion and of the invited guests.
On the night of the banquet, the guests began to arrive. Soon the 350 reserved seats were filled. My wife had made allowance for additional guests, but these 25 extra seats were soon filled also. More people streamed in, joining those who were already standing and lining up on all sides of the hall. There were approximately 1,000 people in the hall, and more were still coming in.
My wife recalls what happened this way: “At that moment, I just wished to melt and disappear. I approached the hostess, and she too had the same feeling of desperation. Though I was nervous, I tried to stay calm and began praying fervently and silently: ‘Heavenly Father, please help me. I do not know what to do. Please don’t forsake me.’ Then my husband approached me and whispered, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will bless the food silently.’
“Instantly, my fears were gone. I had no doubt that I could rely on the Lord. The dinner began. Eleven waiters replenished the food on the tables without ceasing as the banquet proceeded. After the affair, when the guests were gone, all the tables were still filled with food. And there was still food left in the kitchen—five big baskets full of leftovers. All the guests and visitors had been fed and satisfied. Once home, I went immediately to my room and poured out my soul in gratitude to Heavenly Father. My whole body shook and trembled as I cried. My sincere prayer had been answered. The power of the priesthood had been manifest. Truly the Lord will not forsake us if we strive to be righteous.”
Many personal experiences have confirmed to me that those who are obedient are blessed by the Lord as they place their faith in Him. Though we cannot escape difficulties, trials, challenges, and afflictions, living the gospel of Jesus Christ will give us strength and an assurance of promised blessings that can be obtained in no other way. When we allow the spirit of the adversary to be with us, it keeps us away from the joy and comfort and satisfaction that are guaranteed to the righteous. True happiness may be enjoyed only when we live worthy to have the Spirit of the Lord with us.