A long time ago, there was a (goodly) guy who was probably really busy just like us, and I imagine that he had a lot of things on his plate. He was a father, which means he had a family to support – which also means he had a job, he had a place in the community, and he cared about other people. In his city (Jerusalem), there happened to come “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed”.1 This threat of destruction and the need for repentance from these prophets had stirred up some strong feelings of love and action from this man, so immediately – and on top of everything else that he already had on his plate – he started praying “even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.” As he prayed “there came a pillar of fire… and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.”2
Perhaps “these things” which Lehi saw included the impending destruction of Jerusalem, the city he loved, or the upcoming trials that would test his family. Perhaps it was a glimpse of the additional responsibilities the Lord had in mind for him as a prophet/leader (in addition to his current load). Perhaps it was a detailed account of his children and their future rebellion, or maybe even a glimpse at his own associates soon trying to kill him. Any way you slice it, we can rest assured that what he did see and hear, wasn’t just all the amazing blessings that were headed his way, because (these things he saw) caused him to “quake and tremble exceedingly.”
What happens next gives us a great phrase into Lehi’s state of mind. It also helps us understand a pattern that occurs pretty frequently in the scriptures, which means we should pay attention. The record reads: “And it came to pass that he returned to his own house… and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.”3 The next verse starts out “And being thus overcome” reminding us that what happens is actually during his state of being overcome. One synonym or definition for overcome is to overwhelm. Lehi felt overwhelmed at his responsibility and his immediate future. How many of us can relate to that? How many mothers see and hear ‘these things’ that don’t ever stop that are just a part of motherhood and feel a bit overwhelmed? How many fathers are overwhelmed at the exact same thing? Life can often be overwhelming.
Well, the good news, that’s not where the story ends, because the pattern shows us what great things can happen when we find ourselves “being thus overcome”.
Lehi, being thus overcome, was carried away in a vision, where he saw the heavens, God, and numberless angels so that his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled4 – in other words, the Lord somehow replaced Lehi’s quaking and trembling with joy and love and peace.
Note that Lehi’s vision didn’t change what the Lord was going to ask Lehi to do, nor did it change his present or future responsibilities – all it changed was Lehi’s perception and motivation – because after this experience, Lehi had the strength and courage to go forward and prophesy to the people, and to declare “concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.”5
For the past 11 months or so, there has been a particularly stressful situation involving my work life. And those of us who happen to be like Lehi, and who are charged with the heavy responsibility to “preside over [our] families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for [them]”6 understand how work, and everything that comes with the word “work” happens to be a large portion of our lives (every day, every week, all year long) and can affect our feelings – not to mention that it’s our “work” that pays for and supports everything else (house, cars, food, family life, etc.) we enjoy. It’s sort of a big deal.
This particular issue started out as a typically small/normal problem to solve, but over the past year it has grown to become a potentially catastrophic one. It has brought me to the same point as Lehi – where I can honestly say that I have seen and heard much; and because of the things which I have seen and heard I am beginning to quake and tremble exceedingly. I don’t know if I’ve cast myself upon my bed quite yet, and thrown in the towel, but I do happen to find myself sympathizing with and relating to Lehi and his state of being ‘overcome’ more and more as this situation drags on and on and on. I also find myself wishing that this particular trial/struggle had not come to me at all. I would eagerly pass it on to someone else.
The past two weeks have been particularly bad, to the point where I have been battling to find a proper balance in my various responsibilities (husband, father, church calling, work) and honestly, it’s been a battle even gathering my thoughts to focus on the things that I want to focus on (rather than this glaring problem dominating my thoughts and being a continuous distraction all day and night) while attempting to still make time to actually do real “work” or to work off some stress (that’s code for train/work out or relax with the family), which ironically adds stress in the event I miss scheduled time off or fail to completely give all my attention to the things that matter most.
All of this brings me to a hope that by somehow recognizing this pattern, and where I currently find myself in this pattern, I can and will be able to see or experience something great and enlightening (like Lehi) while or since or because I am “thus overcome”. I also realize that there is a possibility that it may be two more years before I am fully ‘overcome’ or that this situation is resolved (if ever) which is frightening and sobering at the same time. Yet, this passage also highlights the simple, yet incredibly difficult way to work through this type of burden. Lehi, and later his son, teach us that when the going gets tough, we should just start praying fervently for other people – and then acting on those prayers to actually help them. This for me the past several months has been easier to preach and much harder to practice.
This passage helps me remember that I have often been missing this key component to Lehi’s successfully being shown great things while he was “overcome”. That by forgetting (or not worrying about) my own problems in order to help someone else with theirs – I will actually solve my own problems. It’s the same way the Savior approached his monumental task in the garden of Gethsemane.
It is also probable that until I learn how to do that, I won’t be able to see clearly that all along the way there have been repeated moments of joy, “to the point where my soul did rejoice, and my whole heart was filled” – just like Lehi’s – and that I don’t need to continue waiting until some imaginary end of this trial to be happy.
So here I am, writing this to myself as a reminder to be like Lehi, who was being like Jesus.
1 1 Ne. 1:4
2 1 Ne. 1:6
3 1 Ne. 1:7
4 1 Ne. 1:8-15
5 1 Ne. 1:18
6 The Family: A Proclamation to the World (p7)