First Nephi 2:11-18
Each member of Lehi's camp needed to experience a turning point, a point of commitment. A point where they come to know for themselves that Lehi is an inspired prophet, sincere in his obedience in leaving Jerusalem. Each family member either gained their own testimony (Nephi), or fought back all the way to the promised land (Laman and Lemuel).
Three days traveling through the wilderness takes its toll on weak resolve. For Laman and Lemuel, sleeping in a tent, living off provisions, being alone, and homesickness for their inheritance caused the novelty of wilderness life to wear off quickly. The charge: that they were like unto the Jews at Jerusalem who sought to take away the life of their father, tells us everything we need to know - they were murderers in their hearts. I'm sure they rationalized that they would be doing their mother and siblings a service by preventing this "visionary man" (a derogatory term - not a compliment) from leading them to certain death in the wilderness.
So the lines in the desert sand were drawn. Lehi on one hand, Laman and Lemuel on the other. The rest of the family had to take sides. Who would Nephi side with?
Lehi dwelt in a tent - for how long? Until Nephi decided. It could have been weeks. Perhaps they thought their journey was over, that Lehi would dwell in the Valley of Lemuel while Jerusalem was destroyed. Nephi was under pressure to take a side. Would he just take his father's word for it? He had not murmured, its true, but by staying in the valley he was not neutral - he was effectively taking Lehi's side. But did he want to? He was forced to decide who's team he was on. Laman and Lemuel's decision must have been alarming to him. Would he follow his brothers in their rebellion? Interestingly, his decision-making included following the example and journey of his father by doing something Laman and Lemuel had not: by praying about the message to know for himself. In his own words:
Prayer is the answer. Our choice is similar today. On one hand we have visions, dreams, prophecies, and testimony, on the other we have the explanation that its all "foolish imaginations" of the heart. How do you feel about Jesus Christ? Is he the Son of God, just a prophet, just a man, or fictional? How about the Book of Mormon? Is it the word of God, or some more foolish imaginations? How about Joseph Smith? A modern day prophet commanded to restore Christ's Church, or a cunning inventor of false religion?
Many people today are like Laman and Lemuel, they "know not the dealings of that God who created them", neither do they desire to know. For Laman and Lemuel, that never changed, they never got their testimony because they never got on their knees to get it. They were given many opportunities for a turning point, incredible witnesses of God's power - an angel, the voice of the Lord, His Spirit causing them to shake, a life threatening storm, and so forth. These things tamed their murderous hearts, but didn't give them a true testimony. What was the difference between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi? Laman and Lemuel knew not the dealings of God. Nephi had great desires to know. That is the difference. It wasn't just that Laman and Lemuel didn't know, it's that they didn't desire to know.
What is desire? Can I cause a desire within myself simply by telling myself I should have desire it? Or am I born with or without certain desires? Do my choices affect my desires? Or do my desires determine my choices? I think that my desires do determine my choices, but desires are not absolute, or unchangeble. They can come and go, increase or decrease, change or fade, based on how our choices nurture or starve them. Our inner desires are changed by our use of agency. Our choices change us. Our choices have an effect on us. Our choices change who we are. Our choices change our desires. That is why we were given a body - so that we could change our spirits. True, our spirits are immortal, but they are not unchangeable. We change them with our choices. They are like clay when paired with a mortal body that can exercise agency. If those choices move us farther away from our Heavenly Father and his purifying Spirit, one day we will be so tired of the guilt we feel that we will try to justify our miserable condition by echoing what the world tells us: “I was born this way, and I can’t change.” But even at that point, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the ability to fundamentally change who we are. We can become completely new people. The atonement can change our very natures. That was the difference between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi. Their daily choices influenced them not to want to know. We may think we are born a certain way, but our desires are not unchangeable. They grow or shrink with every choice we make.
Sincere prayer can answer the questions above. Asking God for yourself is how you get a testimony, a witness. He will answer. Then you can stand on your own two feet and say "I know". Once Nephi received his testimony, he told Sam. Sam believed him. That is all we know of Sam's turning point. We will discuss Sariah's, Zoram's, and Ishmael's family's turning points in future posts. Once we get our testimony, let's be like Nephi and share it with others.