Our power to overcome

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 11 comments

This post is part of an ongoing series “What’s in the Book of Mormon”, to provide a taste of this sacred record. It is not meant to be a substitute for reading the Book of Mormon itself, however (you can get a free copy here).

1st Nephi in The Book of Mormon, contains a profound and inspirational story about mans power to overcome adversity and create his own destiny.

In the opening chapters of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi was commanded to leave Jerusalem and depart with his family into the wilderness. There they would spend a number of years, before journeying across the ocean to the Americas.

At one point in this journey, his righteous son Nephi records that as he and his brothers went out to hunt for food, Nephi broke his bow. Because his brother’s bows had already lost their springs, this left them incapable of providing sufficient substance for their family. They began to suffer much hunger and affliction. Many began to complain against the Lord for their hardships.

During this time, Nephi did not lose faith, but rather exhorted his family to be faithful, and to trust in the Lord. But he too began to feel the weight of their affliction and hunger.

At this point, rather than allowing himself to wallow in self-pity, or complain, he decided to take action.

1 Nephi 16:23

And it came to pass that I Nephi, did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myslef with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

It sounds easy, when said simply in only so many words. But Nephi and his family had lived a privileged and prosperous life in Jerusalem, and building a bow was likely as foreign to him as it would be to you or I. It must have taken significant work and care, and all while hungry.

Because Nephi decided to take action though, he was able to go out into the forest and hunt, returning with food, which caused much rejoicing.

Often our lives are disrupted by such events. I associated with Nephi well, having recently lost my job (my “bow”, or ability to provide food, was broken). But we each have been given the ability to overcome much, if we will just remain faithful, hopeful, and optimistic, take stock of what we’ve got, and then exert ourselves in working out our own solutions.

Often the Lords help comes only as we invest of ourselves. When our power to overcome is supplemented by His power, we too can overcome the adversity of our lives.

Rusty

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Persimmon November 4, 2009 at 6:57 PM

Rusty – I was about to bring up this very chapter in the other post regarding Ryan’s comments about not being out of debt. In there, he posted:

>>But the trial is for me to not get discouraged. I have succeeded in providing for my family for 10 years, and now I’m not doing too well. I realize that if we had not succumbed to affluence early, most of my debt would have disappeared over the last 10 years. But now I face my debt and it seems overwhelming to fight such a monster.<<

This has some harmony with what you have said regarding their trials in leaving Jerusalem. The other tie-in that many miss is the modern food storage one. That being that when they began to suffer physically, their individual testimonies waned as well. Even Lehi was affected.

From that I draw the conclusion that the counsel to acquire food storage is only in shallow measure about keeping our bodies strong. The deeper, more meaningful message is that we do it SO THAT WE DO NOT LOSE OUR FAITH and take opportunity to withdraw from God. In short, it is about preservation of testimony in addition to preservation of body.

All of those things which serve to pry us away from God…Ryan has outlined the start of some of the ways in which it happens. Feelings of inadequacy, self doubt, of being somehow worth less that what we were before – all of those are not how God sees us. In effect, there is already loss of faith or testimony in ourselves, or ourselves as God sees us. Part of that is tied to the wanting state of our bodies when we must go without. Left unchecked, those things will eventually cause all but the strongest of us to fall away in some measure. Food storage is a check on that series of events.

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2 ryan November 5, 2009 at 1:27 AM

I love your comments, Persimmon. Using food storage as a measure of faith is reliable, especially if put in the perspective of being prepared for the trials so our testimony isn’t lost the moment we go hungry. And in talking with my sister in law tonight, I have a better perspective.

She grew up with none of the niceties of life, although her dad worked very hard, sometimes two or three jobs. But she never felt poor. Her dad was respectable, honest, and loving.

Recently her dad died. And as expected, his character was the theme of his funeral, not how much money he made.

Being a provider is only a portion of the role a father plays for his family. I’m glad I have invested quantity and quality time so that my kids and my wife know that I love them.

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3 Rusty Lindquist November 5, 2009 at 10:13 AM

Persimmon, what a fantastic extraction from that story, one that has alluded me with each reading. To your point, Doctrine and Covenants 29:34 states:

Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal”

In short, the “temporal” law of food storage is actually a spiritual law, for spiritual means. I can’t thank you enough for opening my eyes to this.

If you don’t mind, I want to make a separate post from that, but would first extend the offer to you, if you’d like. I’d love to submit it as a guest post. It deserves better exposure than nested within the comments.

Ryan, your intense and apparent love for your family will always be their overriding memory. That said, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that you’ll be quickly and fully “back in the saddle”, in part because of your optimism and faith, and in part because you’re one of the smartest, hardest working people I’ve known 😉

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4 Margaret November 5, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Being prepared has been a part of the Gospel forever. Reading this thread reinforces what we have known for years. My husband and I are on the verge of retirement. We both grew up on dairy farms, and 32 years ago we bought a 1/2 acre lot and built a home that was bigger than we needed for our family of 5. We have always had a garden, fruit trees and grape vines, and always stored our produce. Since our 3 daughters are grown, married and have their own families, we have cut back and have had lots of empty bottles in our storage room-until this year. We have felt a great urgency this year to grow more and put everything we could into bottles. We pulled out those bottles, cleaned them and filled every bottle.

So far, our kids are all still working. They are all buying homes. Our home is within 5 months of being completely paid for. It gives us great comfort to know that should any (or even all) of our kids should lose their jobs, we have room so they could all come home. It would be a challenge for 16 people to be under the same roof, but we could do it and not starve.

I know that if we listen to the counsel the Lord gives us, we will be prepared and there will be no need to fear. We have been through times of unemployment, too, and survived and gained wisdom in the process. If rough times are ahead, they may be hard, but we’ve been through hard times before, and we know it will be OK.

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5 Rusty Lindquist November 5, 2009 at 11:21 AM

Margaret, you never cease to inspire me.

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6 Charles Stone November 6, 2009 at 10:05 PM

This post reminded me of Lazarus who was lying dead stinking rotten in the tomb for four days. Unable to even open a eyelid for himself. When Jesus came to the tomb he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth”. And he that was dead came forth”

It also made me think of Jesus with the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda and other healings we are told about in the gospels. I just wondered how any of these men had invested in themselves or exerted themselves in working out their own solutions. It seems rather they had come to a complete emptying of their own abilities and hung solely on faith alone in God’s goodness.

So, I’m not sure if your post is another one of those “God helps those to help themselves” stories or not. It just hit me differently and I started to question if we really can do anything to earn God’s favor or is it rather God who gives His grace according to his own perfect will and desire.

Don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I just needed to put a check in the balance.

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7 Rusty Lindquist November 6, 2009 at 11:54 PM

That’s a super good question, and very important. I’ve actually given this a lot of thought (being in constant need of His mercy myself). It does seem by reading the story of Lazarus, all that was required was belief:

John 11:25 “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

And to your point, if we look at the story of the man at the pool in Bethesda. At least from the record, it seems as though nothing were required. The Lord asked him if he would be healed, and the man answered that there was no one to help him into the pool, so he could never get there first. At that point, the Lord says simply “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk”. “And immediately the man was made whole…”

From this, it seems, that clearly there are instances where the Lord extends his arm of mercy, with seemingly no effort on our behalf, except perhaps belief.

But I know also that “In the sweat of they face shalt thou eat thy bread” (Gen 3:19), and “Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.” (Psalm 62:12). James 2:24 “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”.

Proverbs 24:12: “…shall not he render to every man according to his works.”

Revelation 2:23: “…I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”

In the end I always decide that it appears there are two options… one is to wait and do nothing, hoping for Mercy “without cause”. The other approach, the one derived from these later verses, is a path of proactivity. Simply because of my nature, I always choose the more proactive course. I believe that men should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause”, trusting that he will “give unto (me) according to my works”.

What are your thoughts?

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8 Persimmon November 7, 2009 at 11:04 PM

Rusty – I am traveling on business this week, and should have enough down time to whip something up on that subject, yes.

I’ve also begun work a few weeks ago putting my thoughts on the “other” subject into writing. As a guesstimate, I’m about halfway there (and six pages in). It will be awhile before that is ready unless an intersection of adequate time and adequate want-to intervenes.

On this subject, one scripture to share from 1 Nephi 17:

35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God…
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God…

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9 Rusty Lindquist November 8, 2009 at 2:15 AM

Fantastic. I can’t wait to post it. And I can’t wait to see the, ahem, other content as well.

Travel safely. I remember when I used to have business trips…. back when I had a job 😉

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10 ryan November 15, 2009 at 3:58 PM

This probably isn’t the place for this type of comment, but since I’m here, I’ll throw it out anyway.

Rusty, you have here and in many other places in your blog defended that faith without works is dead. We had a brilliant conversation going on about this about a year ago with pondering pastor and a few others.

I submit that Mormon culture might be swinging too far to the works side of things. So many saints are concentrating on works that they forget grace at all. By losing this perspective, they forget that we all need the condescension of God for Christ’s atonement to intervene for us. You so eloquently stated it in the post, “Picking the lock of Salvation.”

I just wanted to remind saints that “works without faith is dead” as well.

ryan

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11 Susan November 20, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Very great of your thought, Rusty.

Our wills make us able to overcome all troubles in life! Where there is a will there is a way. It all depends on your own minds whether to be a hero or a coward. Nothing can beat humans’ wills and determinations. Misfortunes are just on the surface.

In January 2010, I will go to Chicago to attend MUN (Model United Nations) Conference. It is really a great opportunity for me! But also, I’ve got some shortcomings–I’ve never passed the science exams so far after I attended senior high school. So you see, there is always a way out. I’ve got a lack of ability in something but am also talented in some subjects. It is with me, so it is with you. 🙂

I hope I can meet you when I go to America next year. I love making foreign friends. My grandfather’s death was ever a great blow to me in my life. I guess maybe, from my unconsciousness, that’s the most underlying reason why I always develop a deep friendship with people older than me especially the male ones, and, to be honest, I care about my adult friends just like how I cared about my grandfather. Also, he looked like a foreigner. Everyone said he looked like a foreigner. Therefore, my best adult friends are all foreigners. You may not believe it, but it is true that when I bid farewell to my English friends I cried everyday at home the same as when my grandfather passed away. Generally, I love everyone who inspires me with philosophy of life, and that was ever my grandfather’s job.

But the dead are dead, and the living are still living. I must put the past behind, because life must go on!

I wish you good luck with all you do. I firmly believe your new ‘company’ will be successful over time! LOL

Here’s a Chinese proverb for you: Heaven never cuts off a man’s means. 天无绝人之路。(Heaven never cuts off a man’s means.)

Great wishes,
Susan

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