Sunday, August 24, 2008

Learning from Nephi: Trial and Error

I hate not being perfect.

So, I know it's the plan and all, to learn by our experience, but, you know, sometimes it's just plain hard.

I have been sorting through some difficult decisions as of late. The kind where I feel like I *really* don't want to make a mistake (you know that kind, I'm sure, because we all have them). I *thought* I was heading in a good direction, but then I figured out that maybe it wasn't really the right direction. (Or maybe things had changed and I needed to try a different approach. But still, it can get frustrating to not feel like, "YEAH! This is IT!") It truly is a line upon line time in my life (you probably know what I mean there, too, because I think we all have those as well).

I have been studying Nephi a lot lately. Like reading and re-reading First Nephi. I even went to a musical during Education Week (thanks to my friend who had an extra ticket), and that got me reflecting on him all the more.

I've learned boatloads from Nephi (ha! no pun intended), but here I want to share what I learned this week. I learned that sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.

And guess what? Maybe that's ok.

Nephi and his brothers were commanded to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass. (A whole different post could be written on why they weren't able to get them before they left. The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways, and saving time and effort and reducing pain and struggle is not always His primary purpose for us. Note to self....)

Of course I need not let you know how many times I have read First Nephi. (Who hasn't? After all, it's the first chapter in a book we always recommit to reading, right? What's that joke about First Nephi being the most-oft-read book of scripture?...)

But this time, reading about the three different attempts hit me in a different way than it ever has. (I love the scriptures and how this happens. Often.)

The first two attempts to get the plates really failed quite miserably. The brothers were in physical danger, and ended up losing their property. Laman and Lemuel were not only ready to go back to their father; by the failure of the second attempt, they were angry, and started beating Nephi and Sam.

Yet another post (or many posts) could be written about Nephi's amazing patience, his faith, his reliance on scripture and on God's promises to ground him, and the extremely difficult commandment he was eventually given to kill Laban (and how he worked through his initial reaction and the repeated commands he was given). There are amazing lessons in all of these things (and more).

But for now, I wanted to focus on the message that came to me RIGHT when I needed it this week: That sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out what the right solution is. And that's okay. That didn't mean that Nephi was evil. It didn't mean that the Lord wasn't there. Perhaps it just meant that the Lord gave him room to try a few different things, to exercise his agency, to learn what worked in that situation and what didn't. And perhaps to learn to rely on the Lord all the more. Because of his faith, Nephi believed that in spite of his weakness, the Lord would guide and help him. And the result of that faith was that he gained some knowledge. He learned more about how God works. He learned that exercising faith is not a vain exercise. He learned a lot about why the scriptures were so important, and he probably learned a little about himself.

But not giving up, he figured out what was Right, and he probably learned a lot more along the way.

This little lesson has caused me to reflect, once again, on the fact that the Lord is there and the Atonement is there so that we don't have to be perfect on the first try. And even as we trust in Him, we won't always figure everything out perfectly, but we can get there if we don't give up and continue to trust in Him. He has given us space and the mercy necessary to learn from trial and error, if we will but "be faithful to him" -- to exercise our faith until we have figured out the next step. Sometimes that is all we will be given. One step at a time.

Lead, Kindly Light....
I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.
(Hymns, #97)


  1. Great post, m&m. I really love "Lead Kindly Light".

  2. *hugs* I miss you! (Need to call . . . )

    Thank you for this post. I think that if Nephi hadn't learned the lesson of relying on the Lord, he would not have been able to get through future problems in his life. It is interesting to note how often he mentions trusting in God and not the arm of flesh in later chapters.

  3. What wonderful insight! Thanks for sharing it. This helps me right now, as well. I relate to Nephi and lessons he learned, especially this 'trial and error' experience and 2 Ne 4.

    Yesterday my youngest retold Nephi getting the brass plates as her favorite scripture story - at first calling them "glass plates" and saying Nephi told the servant (Zoram) to "go fetch me my brass plates." That one will go down in the family oft-repeated favorite phrases!