Faithful Obedience and Sacrifice

Small Town Restaurant


Nephi sacrificed a lot personally, suffering physical abuse at the hands of his older brothers. They beat Nephi with a rod and bound him with cords (see 1 Nephi 3:28, 7:16, 18:12), and at least three times they sought to take his life (see 1 Nephi 7:16, 16:37, 17:48). Yet Nephi endured all of this. He was willing to sacrifice his own life, if necessary, rather than disobey God.

We should realize that the Lord requires very few people to carry out the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives for the building up of His kingdom. In the end, it was not required of Nephi, but God may ask that we be willing to do so, because then we will obey and sacrifice other things when called to do so. If we are willing to sacrifice everything we possess, including the possibility of giving up our lives in the service of God, then we will do what He asks of us and leave the consequences in His merciful hands. This is what Nephi did.

This is an excerpt from The Covenant Path by Valiant Jones.

Such commitment requires spiritual fortification from God. Nephi knew this, and he prayed for strength to deal with his troubles rather than simply asking God to take them away. Even though an angel had intervened in an earlier beating, Nephi did not ask God to intercede when Nephi’s brothers tied him up and threatened to leave him to be killed by wild beasts. Instead, Nephi prayed, “Give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound” (1 Nephi 7:17). In this case, God responded in a miraculous way, causing the bands to fall loose from Nephi’s hands and feet. But Nephi was ready to deal with the burden himself if necessary, only praying for strength to do so.

Nephi and his family also learned that the sacrifices they made on their journey through the wilderness saved them from a worse fate. The Lord told Nephi, “After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 17:14).

Similar lessons came to my family when I was a boy. In 1961, we moved from Utah, where we felt safe and secure, to Kokomo, Indiana, where our religion and large family were seen as strange curiosities. My dad accepted an opportunity to lease a fast-food restaurant, and he hoped that the move would not only bring financial security but also provide fertile ground where his children could establish firm testimonies of the gospel by living “in the mission field.”

Our first year there brought many challenges. A giant tree came down in our yard in one storm, and lightning struck our house in another, damaging the wiring and causing an electrician to express surprise that the house didn’t burn down. There were challenges with Dad’s new employment, lots of church work to be done in the small branch, an illness and hospitalization of my baby brother, and home sickness for Utah. It seemed like we were passing through our own trek in the wilderness, but my parents believed we were where the Lord wanted us to be. Dad was soon made branch president, and he focused the Saints on growth and the construction of a new meetinghouse. 

After four years, the owners of the restaurant told my father they would not renew his lease. It was a hard blow to our family, but Dad soon found other work. Then, just six weeks later, a destructive tornado hit the city. It occurred on Palm Sunday, and our branch was meeting in its new church building for the first time. The meetinghouse was spared, but the restaurant and many other businesses were demolished. We counted our blessings.

Our family lived in Indiana for nearly thirteen years before returning to the mountain west. We always struggled financially, but the hope of my parents that this experience would strengthen their children paid off, and it prepared us all for future challenges in life. Like Nephi’s family, my family faced many sacrifices, but we moved forward with faith and came out stronger and feeling blessed.

Faithful Obedience and Sacrifice

Nephi’s approach to obedience and sacrifice was one of total and complete faith. His was not blind obedience. It was faithful obedience, and it brought him the guidance of the Holy Ghost as he took action to obey. It can do the same for us.

This is an excerpt from The Covenant Path by Valiant Jones.

Upon departing a third time to seek to obtain the brass plates, Nephi said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the thing which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). Nephi went forth with this faithful attitude after he and his brothers had exhausted all their ideas and resources in trying to fulfill the Lord’s command. Nephi never challenged God as to the purpose of His commands. He didn’t ask, “Are You sure we really need the brass plates?” or “Can’t You get someone else to do this?”

Either he moved forward in faith, being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6), or he inquired how to carry out the Lord’s commands, such as when he asked his father, “Whither shall I go to obtain food?” (1 Nephi 16:23) and Heavenly Father, “Whither shall I go that I may find ore?” (1 Nephi 17:9).

Nephi also never questioned his ability to do what the Lord had commanded, for he knew “that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish that which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). When he was instructed of the Lord to build a ship, he did not doubt that he could do it, even though he had never built a ship before. His brothers thought the idea was foolish and mocked him, saying, “Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17).

In spite of this, Nephi moved forward with confidence. He rehearsed to his brothers the miracles the Lord had performed for the Israelites and added, If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. And now, 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? (1 Nephi 17:50–51)

So with faith that God would guide him in how to do it, and with his brothers’ reluctant assistance, Nephi did “go forth” and build a ship.

This does not mean that there were not challenges to be solved along the way. Nephi said, “And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship. . . . And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (1 Nephi 18:1, 3).

We likewise demonstrate our faith in God when we “go forth” and obey His directions even though the path ahead is uncertain. This is what my missionary companions and I did as we boarded a jet in Los Angeles bound for Cordoba, Argentina, in 1976. Like thousands of other missionaries, we barely knew the language of the country we were headed to.

We were unsure how to manage all of the connections that lay ahead, and we had no idea how we were going to eat or where we were going to sleep during our two-day trip to Cordoba.

After stops in Columbia and Peru, we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, late at night, seventeen hours after our departure. We were shepherded to a hotel by a Church agent and then put on another plane the next morning, bound for Cordoba. We were taken to the mission home where we had a nice meal and simple interviews with our new mission president who spoke no English. The next day, I was walking the streets of a strange neighborhood, hearing words I barely understood, and experiencing foods and culture that were all new to me.

Yet, in spite of all the changes and unknowns, I was excited. I did not let my fears and uncertainties hinder me from “going forth” in faith, with confidence that I would be blessed and guided. That guidance came repeatedly throughout my mission, sometimes with powerful, spiritual manifestations, and other times more subtly. I learned that the more often we take action to obey God’s commandments and directions, the more prepared we become to receive additional help and inspiration when we need it.

Nephi and his family learned this same lesson through their interactions with the Liahona. It appeared outside Lehi’s tent door before his family left their first campsite and was described by Nephi as “a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:10). This sounds like a compass, but the power moving the spindles was not the earth’s magnetism. Nephi learned that “the pointers which were in the ball . . . did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (1 Nephi 16:28; emphasis added).

The Liahona is a “type” or a symbol for guidance from the Holy Ghost. Like the Liahona, the Holy Ghost works “according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto it,” or, in other words, according to our faithful obedience and willingness to sacrifice. 

This is an excerpt from The Covenant Path by Valiant Jones.

Nephi wrote of the pointers on the Liahona, “And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it” (1 Nephi 16:29). That is the way the Holy Ghost directs us.

Inspiration from the Holy Ghost will change from time to time according to our needs and circumstances as well as our faith and diligence. Our Liahona, the Holy Ghost, is our source of ongoing revelation, customized for each one of us, as we move along the covenant path.

However, the Holy Ghost is not our only guide. The scriptures and words of modern prophets and apostles are other Liahonas for us. If we give heed to them with faith and diligence, they will guide us. These also change from time to time. The words we read in the scriptures often evoke new insights and new understanding for us as our life circumstances change. Also, the words of our living prophets and apostles give us new direction in general conference every six months. We will be guided in all our covenant commitments, including obedience and sacrifice, if we give heed with faith and diligence to all our modern Liahonas: the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and the words of modern prophets and apostles. 

Earlier, when the Lord visited Nephi, He said, “Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart” (1 Nephi 2:19; emphasis added). Faith and diligence— these are the same principles that gave function to the Liahona. It is only through our faithfulness and diligence that we qualify for God’s promises of guidance and blessings in our lives. Like Nephi, we show our faith and diligence through obedience and sacrifice. If we are “faithful and true in all things” (D&C 124:13), we, like Nephi, will eventually be ushered into the presence of the Lord.

This is an excerpt from The Covenant Path by Valiant Jones.