As Nephi concluded his sacred record, he left us a wonderful, comprehensive promise that when we “feast upon the words of Christ … , the words of Christ will tell [us] all things what [we] should do” (2 Ne. 32:3). This is a very bold promise. Can we really receive divine direction in all things?
In the first chapter of the Book of Mormon, Nephi tells how his father, Lehi, beheld a vision. In that vision, an angel gave Lehi a sacred book, and “as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Ne. 1:12). When we search the scriptures, individually or as families, our hearts and minds are filled with the Spirit of the Lord. With that Spirit, we can indeed find the direction we seek within the pages of the standard works.
Let us put Nephi’s promise to the test and see how the words of Christ can help us resolve four common concerns:
1. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the burdens that weigh upon me. Why must I suffer so much adversity in my life?
Adversity is the common lot of all who come to earth. When we search the scriptures, we learn about the meaning of adversity. We also find reassurance that we are not left without help in facing the challenges of adversity.
In 2 Nephi 2:11 [2 Ne. 2:11], we learn that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”
As we study the verses preceding and following this one, we learn that Lehi is teaching his son Jacob about the plan of salvation. Essential to this plan is moral agency, or the freedom “to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon” (2 Ne. 2:26). Adversity is a necessary component of the great plan of happiness, for without opposition, “righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Ne. 2:11).
Adversity presents us with the opportunity to use our agency. And as we use it wisely, the Lord can refine us and eventually exalt us.
While imprisoned in Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord how long he must endure persecution and affliction. The Lord answered, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 121:7–8).
But although adversity is a necessary part of our mortal experience, we need not endure it alone. A search of the Book of Mormon reveals the Lord’s promise to those who had been baptized by Alma and who were being subjected to great afflictions:
“Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me. …
“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs. …
“And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).
The Lord does not leave us comfortless in times of trial (see John 14:18).
2. One of our children is starting to stray from the Church. What can we do to bring our child back?
This is surely one of the most difficult problems many people face. For this problem, too, we find guidance in the words of Christ. Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that when those in our care make mistakes, we need to correct them gently and kindly—but specifically and before it is too late. And we need to increase our expressions of love. In verses 41 through 44, we read:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
“That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 121:41–44.)
Betimes means “before it is too late.” There are different interpretations of the term sharpness. One meaning refers to “being in focus.” That is to say, when reproof is given, it should focus upon a specific problem, conveying to the person being corrected that he or she is still valued and loved, even though current behavior is not acceptable.
A great pattern of reproving with love is found in Alma’s counsel to his wayward son, Corianton (see Alma 39–42). Alma teaches the doctrine in a very powerful, understandable way, then lovingly reproves his son and admonishes him to “let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).
You will recall that Alma himself had been a wayward youth until an angel appeared unto him in response to the prayers of his father (see Mosiah 27:14). In teaching the Nephites the power of prayer, the Savior promised them that “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you” (3 Ne. 18:20). The scriptures teach over and over that prayers really do make a difference.
3. Someone offended me greatly, and it is very hard for me to forgive him. What should I do?
The Lord has made it clear that the power to exercise judgment is His: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).
That is a high standard. Some offenses are so serious that it is extremely difficult to forgive those who have harmed us. The Book of Mormon explains how we can obtain the spiritual strength to forgive:
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. …
“… Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moro. 7:45, 47–48).
Love, including the power to forgive, is a divine gift. Earnest and energetic prayer can open the heart to receive that gift.
4. How can I know if and when I have been forgiven of my sins?
In Mosiah 4 and Mosiah 5, King Benjamin discusses several signs that indicate when our sins have been forgiven. He had just given a powerful sermon to his people, and their hearts had been softened by his words; they viewed themselves in their carnal state and prayed that the atoning blood of Christ would make them clean again. After they had thus prayed, they were “filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins” (Mosiah 4:3).
Feeling joy is one indication that we are returning to the right path. Alma taught that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). It is impossible to feel joy and sorrow simultaneously, so it is safe to assume that when our hearts are filled with joy we are in the process of overcoming wickedness.
A second sign that King Benjamin’s people had received a remission of sins was that they had peace of conscience (see Mosiah 4:3). We may not forget all our sins, but if we have truly repented, we will remember them with a peaceful conscience and be “harrowed up by the memory of [our] sins no more” (Alma 36:19).
Third, when we repent we are filled with the love of God (see Mosiah 4:12). Hearts that are filled with love are full. There is no room for hatred, revenge, discouragement, or fear.
Fourth, we do not have “a mind to injure one another” or even to allow our children to “fight and quarrel one with another” (Mosiah 4:13–14).
A fifth sign is that we are inclined to impart of our substance to others in need (see Mosiah 4:16–21). The Savior lifted the burdens of others; we will desire to do the same.
A sixth mark of true repentance is that we have “no more disposition to do evil” (Mosiah 5:2).
The scriptures are a veritable banquet of insights and divine counsel. Let us feast at the table often. If we do, the Holy Spirit will fill our lives, helping us to be “nourished by the good word of God” and to remain “in the right way” (Moro. 6:4).
In reference to His own revealed words, the Savior declared:
“These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; …
“For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; …
“Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words” (D&C 18:34–36).