Why not me?

In 1 Nephi 3:31, Laman and Lemuel ask Nephi, “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even slay fifty; then why not us.” This inquiry is juxtaposed so aptly with the very next verse in 1 Nephi 4:1, in which Nephi tells his less-faithful brothers, “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?” The exact same phrase then why not is used in both circumstances, but associated perspective and follow-on consequences of that attitude could not be more diametrically opposed.

Nephi has a clear opt-in strategy that is demonstrated throughout the rest of the first book of Nephi; whereas his brothers Laman and Lemuel demonstrate a clear opt-out strategy. In essence, when a challenge arises, Nephi’s older brothers immediately ask the question, “who are we to overcome this seemingly insurmountable challenge against all odds”; meanwhile, Nephi asks, “who am I not to?” with a confidence borne from trust that is well-founded on the rock of the integrity of gospel living. He then follows that positive introspection with decisive action that expands his skill set and makes him more capable to solve problems in the future. To summarize a few of these examples and juxtapositions found throughout the rest of the first book of Nephi:

    • Lehi, Nephi’s father, sees an incredible vision of the Savior and the future destruction of Jerusalem (in which its inhabitants are carried away captive into Babylon). Laman and Lemuel proceed to think about all the things that they are missing out on (1 Ne 2:11) and choose to dwell in ignorance (1 Ne 2:12). Meanwhile, Nephi decides to act instead of being acted upon, and he prays and the Lord visits him and softens his heart (1 Ne 2:16). This same pattern occurs again when Lehi has the vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8, with Nephi seeing an even more detailed version of the dream in 1 Nephi 11-13. While Laman and Lemuel miss out on spiritual experiences and truths that would have been bestowed upon them with their desire and asking, they choose to take the easier route and live in ignorance.
    • Nephi breaks his bow (1 Ne 16:18). The first response of Nephi’s brothers is to murmur (1 Nephi 16:20). While Nephi’s brothers are complaining and thinking of their terrible state, Nephi moves to action, and builds a bow out of wood (1 Ne 16:23), and then later goes up into the mountain and finds food for his family.
    • The Lord tells Nephi to build a ship (1 Ne 17:8). Again, Nephi’s can-do attitude causes him to problem solve, and instead of asking the Lord to give him a ship, he thinks backward and recognizes the essential elements he would need to build a ship. Nephi is not troubled that he has no previous boat-building experience, but he trusts that God will provide a way for him to follow the direction he has been given (1 Ne 17:50). We see Nephi, yet again, say, “if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” Once again, Nephi is confronted with a problem he has never before faced, and his response is to think “who am I not to rise to this challenge?” His response in this experience is contrasted with the response of Nephi’s brothers, who don’t even try to think big enough to suppose that their talents are greater than their current state and, thus, they don’t even want to try (1 Ne 17:17-18).

In sum, how am I going to use the phrase “why not me?” in response to my circumstances? Will it drive me to accomplish things I have never before done, or will it drive me into a state of mediocrity–paralyzed by a fear of failure? The pattern that Nephi demonstrates in the first book of Nephi (and the contrast of his brothers) provides an interesting comparison, the consequences of which can be well documented throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon. My goal is to be more successful in my endeavors by attacking each challenge and trial with this attitude and belief.