I blame Conference for my delay! I think we all received plenty of Living Water for our buckets this weekend, but I still have been looking forward all week to this chapter, 2 Nephi 4. I've heard this chapter called the Psalm of Nephi. I love how Nephi goes through this cycle of faith, then despair in his weakness, and then joy in the Lord.
The first part of the chapter is Lehi speaking to his descendants, like in previous chapters. But what really tears my heart is when he addresses the children of Laman and Lemuel. He tells them, "for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it." This makes me so sad, because we know that their parents were not bringing them up in the way they should go. You know how the scriptures often talk about the sins of the parents being upon their children and children's children? Well, my husband told me about a passage he read in Answers to Gospel Questions by Joseph Fielding Smith. Someone asked him about whether that contradicted the 2nd Article of Faith that says "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, not for Adam's transgression." President Smith stated:
"The Lord never punishes a child for its parents' transgressions. He is just and merciful. The real meaning of this visiting of the iniquity is that when a man transgresses he teaches his children to transgress, and they follow his teachings. It is natural for children to follow in the practices of their fathers and by doing so suffer for the parents' iniquity which they have voluntarily brought upon themselves." (I:83)
In the next verse, Lehi says that the curse will be "upon the heads of [their] parents." I think that Laman and Lemuel will be very unhappy at judgment day. Much of their descendants' wickedness is directly as a result of their rebellion. But to bring it home, what sort of things am I teaching my children? And what am I teaching them that I don't realize? Kids learn a lot that we don't intend to teach them.
Now, I urge you to go and read verses 15-35 again. It is a beautiful and inspiring section in the Book of Mormon.
V.15-16--Nephi writes the things of his soul, and his soul delighteth in the things of the Lord.
V. 17-19-- Nephi sorrows because of his weaknesses and temptations
V. 20-25-- He acknowledges how because he has trusted in God, God has lifted him up.
V. 26-27-- He askes some questions--why, if he has God on his side, is he feeling despair?
V. 28-30-- He addresses himself and says, Come on, self, you can do better!
V. 30-35-- He cries out to the Lord in pure joy and supplication.
"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and will trust in thee forever...I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness." (v.34-35). I love these words. I used to sing in an Easter Cantata each year in my home stake, and one of the songs in one of the cantatas had these words. (If you're interested, here's the link to the cantata, and the song is "Come and Save Me Oh My Shepherd. There's no mp3, sorry, but you can look at the piano/vocal score.)
This was a wonderful chapter and I hope everyone else found it as inspiring as I did!