And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.
And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, 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. And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake unto them, saying:
… 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 17:8, 17-19, 23, 51
The account of Nephi building a ship is one that is familiar to most of us. We often praise Nephi’s obedience in asking the Lord where he could go to make tools or his courage in standing up to his brothers.
But consider the fact that Nephi grew up in the desert. He did not live in a coastal town. It is likely that he had never even seen a ship before, let alone learned to build one.
Of course his brothers laughed when he told them his plan. Nephi was not a ship-builder. Laman and Lemuel thought he was a fool. They thought he was arrogant and incompetent. They would have felt validated in his failure and were surprised by his success.
Elder Bednar said, “May I suggest that Nephi's experience in building that ship is a model for us…? We, too, must build something we have never built before in order to go someplace we have never been before.”
We have been called to create a sanctuary of faith and a house of learning in our homes. Every home is to be a missionary training center, a temple, a seminary, and a center of learning. We may wonder if we are arrogant or foolish to believe that we are capable of doing such a thing. We may push it aside and think, “This is too difficult, impossible even.” We may even allow ourselves to feel content in the place that God has already led us to. Remember, Nephi was already living in the land Bountiful. Was it dissatisfaction or ingratitude to imagine there might be somewhere even better waiting for him and his family?
Nephi’s brothers didn’t want him to build a ship, because they “were desirous that they might not labor.”
They didn’t want to put in the work. They were content with what the Lord had already given them (even though they’d been dragged there, murmuring and murderous).
They watched Nephi building a ship and they felt uncomfortable. They didn’t want to labor. They didn’t want to admit that there was a need for the work.
Often we feel the same way. We are already having Family Home Evening each week and (physically) wrestling with our toddlers in sacrament, or (emotionally) wrestling with our teenagers during scripture study. We are trying our best, and the Lord somehow expects more of us. Our children have homework and soccer and mutual and early morning seminary- and we think “Isn’t this far enough? I’ve been struggling through the wilderness for years. I don’t need the Promised Land. I’m happy here in the land Bountiful.”
The Lord has something bigger and better planned. “But it is up to us to claim these blessings,” as Elder Dale G Renlund taught. “I invite you to faithfully activate heavenly power to receive specific blessings from God. Exercise the faith to strike the match and light the fire.”
Nephi’s account continues,
Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
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. And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.
1 Nephi 18:2-4
While some of us may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of a task that we can’t even imagine, there are others of us that may think “This is okay. I know how to do this. I know what learning and education look like. I know what my children need.”
And then Heavenly Father tells us, “No. You don’t, because I don’t want you to do things ‘after the manner of men.’”
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
And we cannot combine our plan and the Lord’s plan into something better and more suited for our individual needs. We cannot follow two sets of blueprints. A house divided will not stand, and surely a ship divided will sink.
If we follow the blueprints that God gives us, we will build something good. Even if we only have a bit of instruction at a time, even if our friends and family mock and belittle us, even if we are building something that is unfamiliar and unknown. If we are following the Lord’s instructions we cannot fail.
When the ship was partially completed, Nephi’s family didn’t say “Wow! You were right. This is impressive.” It wasn’t until the ship was finished that Laman and Lemuel realized that Nephi had been working toward something valuable, beautiful, and exceedingly fine.
At times, we will likely wonder what sort of mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. We cannot see the finished product at the beginning, and our friends and family will say things like “I didn’t do that and my kids turned out great,” or “We don’t have time for anything more, it would take away time from other opportunities.”
We need to trust that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
President Nelson said, “The Lord’s ways are not, and never will be, man’s ways. If we will be patient and if we will do our part well, the Lord will lead us through this important task. After all, we know that the Lord helps those who seek to do His will, just as He helped Nephi accomplish the task of building a ship to cross the sea.”
Becky Pitcher is the co-creator of Seek Learning Home, and educates her four young children at home. Follow along with her on Instagram @becky.pitcher