Concerning the family of Lehi in the Book of Mormon, the Come, Follow Me lesson for January 6-12, 2020 suggests: “Overall, there is real power in following the examples of faith that this family—despite their imperfections—demonstrated. …Throughout 1 Nephi 1–7, you could encourage family members to notice interactions between members of Lehi and Sariah’s family. What can we learn from these relationships that can help our family?”
What follows is a sample of three key ideas gleaned from the opening chapters of the Book of Mormon.
Teaching Children Correct Principles and Spiritual Personal Initiative
Nephi begins by paying tribute to his parents: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1). This parental teaching included learning about both temporal and spiritual matters. Nephi was educated in the “language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). Nephi also demonstrated that he understood how to conduct business transactions when he attempted to purchase the brass plates from Laban with his father’s “gold, and our silver, and all our precious things” (1 Nephi 3:24). As explained in a modern revelation, Nephi knew of “things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:79). He was taught gospel principles, language arts skills, and an understanding of worldly commerce.
Nephi was especially encouraged to express his own thoughts, impressions, and ideas “according to my knowledge” (1 Nephi 1:3). He had read, studied, and made an abridgment of “many things which [his father] saw in visions and indreams; … But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days” (1 Nephi 1:16-17). Nephi explains that his primary purpose in his record: “is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God” (1 Nephi 6:4-5). Nephi was learning to “obey the voice of the Spirit” (1 Nephi 4:18). Following the promptings of the Holy Ghost is a key principle that parents need to encourage their children to experience.
Bless and Respect Moral Agency
In spite of the criticism and murmurings of Laman and Lemuel about leaving their well-established home near Jerusalem, Lehi took the opportunity in the wilderness to give them fatherly counsel. To Laman he said, “O that thou mightiest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!” (1 Nephi 2:9). He blessed Lemuel with these words, “O that thou mightiest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!” (1 Nephi 2:10). For both of his oldest sons, he continually tried to teach and encourage them.
As long as their father lived, they reluctantly and sporadically “did as [Lehi] commanded them” (1 Nephi 2:14).
As Lehi approached his own death in the promised land, he foresaw that Laman and Lemuel would be “led according to the will and captivity of the devil” (2 Nephi 1:18). Consequently, Lehi met with the children of Laman and Lemuel and said to them: “I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents. Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever” (2 Nephi 4:6-7).
Lehi’s love for his grandchildren continues to preside over billions of descendants who were not taught the plan of salvation by their parents. Lehi’s blessing is a powerful example of how we should think about our children, descendants, and ancestors. We should love all of our family connections throughout the eternities and trust in “the tender mercies of the Lord” (1 Nephi 1:20).
Individual Generational Faith
These thoughts led us to the most important lesson we learned from studying family relationships in the opening chapters of the Book of Mormon—each generation must plant, nourish, and partake of the fruit of its own seeds of faith. Lehi could not force his family members to have faith; they had to seek it individually. While in the valley of Lemuel, Nephi “did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father” (1 Nephi 2:16).
Through prayer and the spiritual promptings felt in his heart, Nephi had gained the faith to “go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:7). He was prepared to be “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6).
Elder Lynn G. Robbins, of the Seventy, illustrates how these same principles of faith can be applied today by telling the following story about a father who woke his teenage son to get ready for church:
“The son replied, ‘I’m not going to church today.’ Many parents in a moment like that would be tempted to say, ‘Oh, yes you are’ and then add a threat. This father was wiser and simply said, ‘Son, you don’t need to explain why to me, because this isn’t my Church. But you ought to get down on your knees and give your excuse to your Heavenly Father.’
“The father then left his son at the crossroads with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost can bother our children far better than we can if we will just trust in that great gift. …Within a few minutes, the teen was up and getting ready for church. Had the father forced his son to go to church, he might have planted the seeds of resentment and rebellion.
“…Our only hope as parents is to teach them correct principles about the plan of salvation and help them recognize the whisperings of the Spirit to guide them in the wise use of their agency” (“Resilience—Spiritual Armor for Today’s Youth,” Ensign, Sept. 2019, 36-41).
We cannot force our children to have faith, we can only teach them the first principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then sincerely encourage each individual to seek “with real intent” the power of the Holy Ghost so that they may “know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5). Each generation must learn on its own initiative the importance of exercising faith, obeying the commandments of God communicated through Prophets, and making their own individual and mutual covenants “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:73).