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.

My Testimony of Trials – Adult Session Stake Conference Talk

I was born to two amazing parents who taught me principles of the gospel from a very young age. Growing up, I always felt very blessed to be a part of my family and to have been given the opportunity to grow up with a fairly comfortable life. I remember feeling like everything was going right my senior year of high school: I was going to graduate at the top of my class, I had been accepted to my dream college, I was a good athlete, and I had the chance to serve in many different leadership positions in seminary and in our ward.

My ardent love for athletics had me very involved in numerous sports, including cross country, track and field, and basketball. During my senior year of high school, my race times were not improving as I hoped, so my coach suggested that I do blood tests for anemia, a fairly common ailment affecting distance runners speed and stamina. The tests came back negative, but doctors noticed that some of my other protein levels seemed unusually high. After almost weekly blood tests, a liver biopsy, and a multitude of doctors appointments, the doctors seemed stumped. Then, I remember coming home from school almost exactly 8 years ago and finding my mother in tears in our living room. Looking at me through her tears, she said that my most recent blood test had revealed that I likely had a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

In what was one of the hardest moments of my life, I ran downstairs to my room, closed the door and got on my knees to pray in a way that I had never prayed before. As I sobbed and offered up my soul to God that afternoon, I had a sacred experience that I can best describe as a warm hug that filled my entire soul when there had previously just been intense pain. In that moment, I felt “encircled about in the arms of His love” and gained a witness that He, my Savior, lives. I also came to understand that the Atonement of Christ was never meant to simply erase our sins. It was meant to transcend all of our weaknesses, to bring light in our darkest moments, and to bring hope when all seems lost.

I would be lying if I said that after that moment, everything has been easy. I have spent many nights wetting my pillow with my tears in despair. I believe that faith was always a natural gift of mine. Growing up, I always trusted that God had omnipotent power and that He could do all things, and I fully believe that at the moment when I knelt down and communed with God, I had the faith to be healed if that was his will at that time. However, the toughest test I have faced in my life is trying to develop, as Elder Bednar describes, the faith not to be healed. I learned that it is much easier to have faith when God’s will aligns with your personal desires. It is much harder to have faith and accept God’s will when it seems contrary to everything you desire and yearn for. Struggling through this process of accepting my unique challenge and trial has been difficult, but it has taught me many lessons.

I would like to briefly share with you two of the many lessons I have learned from this particular trial.

  1. Many of the toughest trials are not immediately apparent, so treat everyone with kindness. For several years, almost no one knew that I had this disease, and that I felt my legs slowly getting weaker. That I was no longer able to run like I loved to do or play basketball, which was a favorite pastime. On the outside, I think I probably looked like I had no trials, and yet there were days of incredible sadness and anger for me. Similarly, we never know when a friend, coworker, or ward member has just had a death in the family, or is experiencing depression, struggling with sin, family problems, or illness. So treat everyone with kindness–as if they are struggling with something–because they probably are. Just like we, at different points in our life, have all struggled with heartache, or frustration, or doubt.  
  2. Life is not fair, but it was never meant to be fair. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, We are all acquainted with other kinds of mortal opposition not caused by our personal sins, including illness, disability, and death. President Thomas S. Monson explained: “Some of you may at times have cried out in your suffering, wondering why our Heavenly Father would allow you to go through whatever trials you are facing.…“Our mortal life, however, was never meant to be easy or consistently pleasant. Our Heavenly Father… knows that we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrows, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days when our loved ones pass away, painful times when our health is lost, feelings of being forsaken when those we love seem to have abandoned us. These and other trials present us with the real test of our ability to endure.

I testify that our trials can refine us like hot fire purifies drossy metal. I prayed every night for years to be like the sick and disabled Nephites in 3 Nephi 17, whom Christ healed one by one. I yearned with all my heart for that physical healing that I felt would make me whole again. Nevertheless, I have come to learn that in some ways, an even more incredible miracle is our Savior’s power to heal our broken hearts. I have felt Him heal my heart, and I know that He lives. I know that because of His atonement, we will all be brought to stand before Him and our Father in Heaven again someday, and I hope to kneel at His feet and, like those Nephites in ancient America, bathe His feet with my tears in gratitude for His tremendous sacrifice. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.