Prospering in the land

In the final days of Lehi’s life, he gave his concluding guidance to his sons. He included Ishmael’s sons and the servant Zoram in his counsel.

There is a theme that began early in the Book of Mormon, and is repeated often throughout the entire book. Lehi included that theme in his final instructions: “inasmuch as ye shall keep [God’s] commandments, ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep [God’s] commandments, ye shall be cut off from [God’s] presence.” 2 Ne. 1:4

Keeping the commandments and prospering, is contrasted with disobeying the commandments and being “cut off from [God’s] presence.” Lehi goes on to explain how his posterity could keep the commandments and prosper: He tells them to respect their brother, Nephi, who had been faithful in keeping the commandments and therefore God had worked through Nephi to bless the entire family.

Lehi explained: “Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time we left Jerusalem, and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness. Nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you. And I exceedingly fear and tremble because of you, lest he shall suffer again. For behold, ye have accused him that he sought power and authority over you, but I know that he hath not sought for power nor authority over you, but he hath sought the glory of God and your own eternal welfare.” Id.

He tells his sons Laman, Lemuel and Sam, and all the sons of Ishmael, specifically, “hearken unto the voice of Nephi.” Id., paragraph 5.

He tells Zoram, “I know that thou art a true friend unto my son Nephi for ever. Wherefore, because thou hast been faithful, thy seed shall be blessed with his seed[.]” Id.

He tells his son Jacob, “thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother Nephi, and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God.” Id., paragraph 6.

Lehi tied keeping the commandments, prospering in the land and not being cut off from God’s presence, to “hearkening to the voice of Nephi.” Lehi anticipated this would be difficult for some of his sons. He told them that they wrongly accused Nephi of seeking power and authority over them. But, Lehi explained, as the father he knew Nephi had not sought for power nor authority over the family, but he only sought the glory of God and the family’s eternal welfare.

Lehi did not want his family to be cut off from God’s presence. To retain God’s presence Lehi knew that his son Nephi, although a younger brother to several sons, was the one who kept the commandments and therefore could teach them what God commanded. “God’s presence” for the family was to be found through what Nephi would teach them. Being “cut off from God’s presence” would result from rejecting their brother, Nephi’s, teaching.

That did not mean once they were cut off that they would not have other, spiritual experiences. The Book of Mormon includes accounts of a number of teachers who were cut off from God’s presence and proceeded to teach vain, foolish, corrupt and destructive messages. Some of them came from “angels” who ministered to them. For example, Sherem said “that he had been deceived by the power of the Devil.” Jacob 5:6. Korihor taught corrupt and evil ideas, but ultimately acknowledged he was deceived by an angel: “the Devil has deceived me, for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel and said unto me, Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me, There is no God. Yea, and he taught me that which I should say, and I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind. And I taught them even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true.” Alma 16:12.

When people are cut off from the presence of God, they are not necessarily cut off from the presence of false spirits, deceiving ‘angels of light’ and corrupt influences. The consistent result of these false spiritual guides is invariably failing to keep God’s commandments. They ultimately lead to carnal, foolish, vain and proud practices that disobey God’s commandments.

Lehi’s guidance to his posterity was intended to help them keep the commandments of God. He knew that to keep God’s commandments his sons needed to heed a voice that would constantly remind them to keep God’s commandments. Nephi, a preacher of righteousness, was always careful to honor God’s commandments and serve Him.

The theme of keeping God’s commandments to prosper in the land is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. And it is coupled with the promise that, when we fail to keep the commandments, we are cut off from the presence of God.