The opening story of the Book of Mormon describes Lehi’s family in Jerusalem. Upon the Lord’s command, Lehi makes an abrupt exit from Jerusalem with his family. They travel for three days into the desert when Lehi is prompted to send his sons back into Jerusalem to collect the Brass Plates containing their sacred scriptures in order to preserve their religion as they wandered into a new land.
When Lehi asks his sons to take the trek back into the desert, his oldest two sons rebel. Nephi on the other hand quotes what has become one of the most famous Mormon verses in all of scripture:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Faulconer wonders how and why this teaching differs from another less famous one in D&C 124:49 here:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.”
The Doctrine and Covenants is a book of scripture written primarily by Joseph Smith describing the revelations he received while trying to build the church. Those early Mormons suffered a great deal of persecutions, afflictions and setbacks as they tried not only to establish a new religion but to build up Zion. The experiences of Lehi echo in many ways the experiences of Joseph Smith. It must have been difficult for those early Saints to suffer setback after setback. It must have been a relief to get these words, that despite their failures, their attempts were accepted by God.
At the surface and without context, these scriptures seem to contradict. Perhaps, though, like most things, they require context and shouldn’t be considered to be universally applicable.
For me, I feel at times inspired to do certain things. Whether that inspiration is from God or from another source is not always easy to tell. So, that’s problem number one. I believe I have a commandment from God to me specifically to do something difficult. And if in my effort to try, I might fail because maybe, it turns out, I misunderstood what God wanted me to do? That’s one possible problem.
The second for me, is the idea that God will only accept my failure if I really tried to succeed with “all of my might”. I almost never feel this way. I nearly always feel like there was at least a little more I could have done, especially when I come up short on a goal I’ve set for myself.
This reminds me a bit of my school experience. A person is given a deadline, you either accomplish your goal by the deadline or you don’t. Either way, you’re given a grade and you move on. Sometimes my offering to the teacher has been acceptable and sometimes it hasn’t been. There are times when this applies to the real world as well. The real world wants results, the effort it takes to get there is irrelevant. But there are countless examples of those who have tried to accomplish something difficult, only to set up a path for others to succeed.
History provides countless examples of this. Visiting Martin’s Cove last summer, it was an interesting time to get more exposure to the Willie and Martin handcart tragedy during the church’s emigrant period into Salt Lake City. It was a catastrophic tragedy, a disaster. One could call it a failure. At the visitor’s center, the guide reminded me that though it may have been a failure, the lessons learned and the faith exhibited were lessons that added to the legacy of the early church, and through their efforts of sacrifice and courage, helping in that failure, to make the church what it has become today.
But this can all be tough stuff. We are all so imperfect, half blind, trying our best, but mostly failing day after day. I think through whatever successes and through the my many failures all I can do is hope my efforts are acceptable because, in fact, they are. God’s grace is already in place before I even tried. And His grace is sufficient.