Story Time: At the end of last year, I received a series of promptings indicating that the Lord wanted me to take on a project that I found incredibly intimidating. This thing would potentially be a blessing to others as it gave me an opportunity to share my testimony often, but it also left me feeling especially vulnerable to the opinion of outsiders.
But I knew that’s what the Lord was calling me to do, so I made a plan, did a boatload of research, and got to work. I did everything I was “supposed” to do, and while I saw some progress, it paled in comparison to the amount of work I was putting in. I thought about throwing in the towel, but every time I considered the idea, a little voice would tell me no.
I was discouraged, overwhelmed, and more than a little perplexed.
And then General Conference happened.
A Prophet's Promise
During the Women’s General Broadcast of the October 2018 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson counseled us to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. Said he:
That first clause really spoke to me. Could I possibly do one more thing? I mean, I study the scriptures every day, but this challenge would definitely require more time than the 30-40 minutes I usually devote to daily scripture study. But that promise—that the heavens would open for me, and that the Lord would bless me with increased inspiration and revelation—was something I wanted and felt compelled to seek, so I pulled my bookmark from 2nd Nephi and started back on page one.
I wasn’t specifically asking for inspiration and revelation for the aforementioned assignment from the Lord, but almost right away, I started to recognize all the little ways that He was opening the heavens for me and my project.
Go Build a Boat
Early in the Book of Mormon, the Lord calls Nephi up to the top of a mountain and tells him to build a boat to carry his family across the ocean to the Promised Land. Despite never having built a boat before, Nephi asks the Lord where he could go to find ore to make the tools he would need, then gets to work.
Of course, his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, think this is absolutely hilarious. “Our brother is a fool,” they say, “for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.” They don’t believe that he had been called to do the Lord’s work, and they do everything they can to get in his way.
But even this doesn’t faze Nephi. He reminds his brothers of all the great miracles the Lord performed on behalf of the Children of Israel—from freeing them from Egypt and parting the Red Sea to providing manna in the wilderness and guiding them to their own promised land—and says,
Finally convinced, Laman and Lemuel quit murmuring and help Nephi build the boat, following the instructions of the Lord—which, Nephi notes, were not “after the manner of men.” The Lord doesn’t give them all of his instructions at once, either. Nephi has to return to the mountain time and time again to ask for the next steps. At long last, the ship is finished, and they set sail for the Promised Land, where they live happily ever after.
As I read through this account, the Spirit taught me how to handle situations where the Lord’s call to work leaves us feeling unqualified, intimidated, or overwhelmed.
Nephi Trusted the Lord to Help Him
If I had been in Nephi’s position, I probably would have balked more than a little at the idea of building a boat meant to carry every person I love across the ocean toward an unknown destination. I don’t know how to build a boat! Everybody is going to think I’m crazy, and they’re going to leave me here in the wilderness, all by myself. This is nuts.
In reality, that’s how I was responding to the assignment the Lord had given me. I worried so much about my own failings that I also failed to see that it’s not about what I think I can do, it’s about what the Lord can do through me. We’re taught repeatedly throughout the scriptures that “with God all things are possible,” and yet, we so often forget that that promise is for each one of us.
But not Nephi. His response was, “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.” No questions asked. He was so confident in that promise that he knew that no matter what the Lord told him to do, he’d be able to do it.
Nephi Asked for Materials and Instructions
That’s not to say that Nephi just forged ahead with blind faith, charging through his makeshift boatyard like an overconfident tinker who thinks they know what they’re doing. Nephi knew he didn’t know the first thing about building a boat. He didn’t rely on his own experience or lean on his own understanding. He asked the Lord where to look for materials, and returned over and over to ask for further instruction.
In my initial efforts to be obedient, I missed that crucial distinction. I definitely forged ahead with blind faith—this is what the Lord wants me to do, so I’mma do it!-–and didn’t think to include the Lord in my plans for moving forward. I put too much stock into my own ability to figure it out, and when those efforts didn’t yield the fruit I had expected, I became discouraged. The study notes in my journal from reading these verses have a big red star next to the words, “I need to do better at asking the Lord how He wants me to do the things He has asked me to do.”
Nephi Didn't Let the Opinions of Others Stop Him
Remember how I said I was worried about what people would think of me while I tried to answer the Lord’s call to share my testimony in this new way? With the current atmosphere of skepticism and ridicule for religion—especially Christian religion—this was a legitimate fear for me. It was also a legitimate fear for Nephi, whose brothers were the ultimate skeptics. They often grew violent when faced with spiritual things, and more than once, Nephi’s life was put in danger because he stood up for what he believed.
But he never let the fear of another beating stop him from doing the Lord’s work. He confronts his brothers with love and power, and not only do they eventually stop harassing him, they actually join the work and help him build the boat.
When we do the work of the Lord, it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be people who will mock us, demean us, and sometimes even threaten us. But if we take a page out of Nephi’s book and stand firm no matter the consequences, we just might be a tool in the Lord’s hand for changing hearts and bringing others into His fold. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? Rescuing the wandering sheep and helping all come to a knowledge of Christ?
Nephi Trusted in the Ways of God, Not Man
One of my biggest struggles in this whole ordeal is the frustration of putting in so much work without seeing many returns. I’ve taken courses, read hundreds of articles, and enacted practices espoused by the “experts,” but by all earthly measures, things weren’t working. I’ve prayed about what to do, and the answers are always unexpected—to the point that I wonder if I’m hearing Him correctly. But the other day, He gently reminded me that His ways are not the world’s ways. “Why are you doing this?” He asked me. “Are you doing this for personal glory or to bless the lives of my children?”
I want this project to be something that genuinely helps people. The Lord helped me to see that I had lost sight of that vision by trusting too much in the things of the world. Instead of focusing on worldly ways and measures of success, I need to focus more on being the witness God needs me to be. It may be a friend, it may be a stranger, it may even just be myself, but if I can bring His light to someone’s life, then I’m doing exactly what He wants me to do.
I need to trust Him enough to let Him lead me as I try to do His work.
What is the Lord calling you to do? How have you been successful as you’ve let him help you do His work?
If you found this post helpful, please share it! Thanks!