Build a ship? I can maybe build a paper airplane, maybe. My husband can build beautiful jewelry boxes and other super cool things like blanket ladders with carved hearts out in his shop. I bet my husband could build a boat. Truly, ship building is the basis story in chapter 17 of the First book of Nephi, but there is more.
Put yourself back into the fertile valley with all of those creepy crawlers and tall grass. Imagine traveling with your families, carrying your belongings and your babies. Nephi tells us that the women were strong, “even like unto the men.” Picture the women with muscles building from carrying their toddlers and from waddling through the wilderness nursing babies. They don’t get to stop and sit on a park bench and cover up with a nursing cover and cuddle their baby, they walk and nurse with a tent on their shoulders, blessed with physical and emotional strength of the Lord. They do this for eight years! Eight years, if they had a baby when they had first left Jerusalem, their child would be of baptism age (in our day and time.)
Lehi’s family arrives in a land which they call Bountiful which has food for them to eat and is on the coast. Their family rejoices at the sight of the ocean and is grateful for being there. Nephi tells us that they “suffered many afflictions, even so much that we cannot write them all.” I can only try to imagine the daily struggles and the need for desperate prayer each and every day for the courage and strength to continue on this journey.
Following the story line, Nephi then gets up to “go and do” again. The Lord commands him up into a mountain where they have a great talk. The Lord directs Nephi to get the items that he needs to build a ship and Nephi asks the Lord where to find all that he needs. This is one of my favorite lines in 1 Nephi, because I can take it an apply it to my own life, each and every day. Verse 13 reads: “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.” Can you close your eyes and feel being guided by the light of the Lord? Can you see yourself preparing on the outskirts of His kingdom to enter and meet Him again? What a sweet vision.
Nephi says that he “did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord.” He doesn’t say that he was perfect, but that he tried really hard. And I appreciate this so much, as I appreciate when our modern-day prophets and apostles share stories with us to remind us that they too, are imperfect. Ready to build that ship now? I am, okay, maybe I’m not. But Nephi is, he is ready to follow the directions of God. He knows that he will be successful with God’s guidance. And I know, that if we strive to keep the commandments of God and ask Him for guidance, that He will provide it and allow us to be successful in our endeavors as well.
Now, once again, Nephi’s brothers aren’t so nice. They go making fun of him because he wants to build a ship. If I were Nephi, I would probably be exasperated with my brothers and want to just build the ship myself. Nephi, however, is full of charity. He is so patient and kind with his brothers that he speaks to them of the story of Moses and how God guided Moses and parted the Red Sea as they fled from Egypt. Nephi preaches to his brothers and reminds them to be righteous in their living and God will take care of them. And again, Laman and Lemuel get mad at Nephi and they decide that they are going to drown Nephi. God, was not happy with them. Verse 48 says: “and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.” I would certainly take this seriously if I were in their shoes. Nephi tells them that they need to behave and help him build this ship and states: “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.” Do you have this much faith? Do you know in the pit of your heart that you can do ALL things, if it is God’s will, even build a ship and cross the Atlantic Ocean?
Nephi wraps ups this chapter by showing his brethren that He is filled with God, and gives them a little shock as God says that he should. Have you ever accidentally shocked yourself unplugging something from the outlet? I actually, just did this on Sunday. Ouch. The feeling lasted in my arm all day Sunday and through most of Monday and Tuesday. Today, just the knuckle above my wedding ring is sore, but I sure remember the feeling. Nephi’s brothers then fall to the ground to worship Nephi. If I were Nephi and talking to my sisters, the conversation would be something like this: “No, no, no. It is not of I. It is of the Lord. Get down on your knees and worship God. It is of Him. Everything is of Him. Now, when you’ve got this through your thick skull, get up and help me build this ship.”
I really am enjoying visualization and I hope that you are too. I write this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.