In 1 Nephi chapter three, Nephi and his brothers made two attempts to get the plates from its owner, Laban. First they simply ask for it, then they try to buy it. Both times they are rebuffed. Nephi’s older brothers are inclined to give up after attempt one, after attempt two where their gold and silver was stolen, they are angry and beat Nephi with a stick. I think seeing their riches stolen from them represents perhaps a point of no return. They are now destined to leave Jerusalem forever and they are angry and resort to violence. An angel intervenes.
In the beginning of chapter four, Nephi points to the example of Moses who was able to do amazing, miraculous things with the help of God and surely God can help them as well.
1 And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying: Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us befaithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why notmightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?
2 Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.
In these verses Faulconer says that this idea of using stories of the past to teach lessons to the present is a common technique. Why is remembering what the Lord has done for those in the past so important in helping us face the challenges in front of us today?
I have two thoughts here. The scripture stories of the past, stories of Moses, Abraham, or Peter seem to have happened in a different world and at times I have trouble relating. Also, we as Mormons have I think mistakenly almost deified our past prophets, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others. I wonder if it is even possible to follow their examples of courage, leadership and faith once we have done so. I think this is a mistake. It’s important to humanize both them and those in the scriptures, and then to dig in to what makes them just as human, just as weak as us. Because then it becomes possible for us, in our weakness and humanness to imagine the possibility of overcoming our own challenges and obstacles in the same way they were able to face and overcome theirs.
My second point is that really digging into the doings of God in my past, in the lives of my parents, and my grandparents, and my ancestors connects me with both my past and with ancestors in important ways. It gives their lives meaning. In real ways, it makes their stories poignant, powerful and important, that the sacrifices they made were done for a reason, to help and bless me. We should take advantage of every opportunity to stand on their shoulders and to project our lives beyond them with the help of their stories and with the help of God. That inter-generational connection can be powerful. We can learn from them just as much as we want our children to learn from us.