So, a couple of thoughts and cool “coincidences” in 1 Nephi, chapter 7 this morning. (Are there really such things as coincidences when it comes to the gospel? I think when I contribute something to coincidence, I’m just trying to find a way to say, “Whoa, if God is behind this—and I'm having doubts He is—I would have to take it seriously and do something about it; so let’s just say He isn’t, and chalk this up to fate. That would make my life a whole lot easier.”)
Before I jump into the non-coincidence stuff, let me just say how bad I feel for Lehi and Sariah. Talk about a dysfunctional family. Here you have a prophet who has kids trying to beat, tie up, and kill their sibling. Talk about contention in the family. I know I shouldn’t take comfort in someone else’s misfortunes, but knowing a cool, inspired guy like Lehi had family issues (and rather bad ones), takes the pressure off me for achieving the “perfect family.”
Anyway, after yet another sibling quarrel, Nephi gives one of his “why don’t you stand up and fly right” pep talks to Laman and Lemuel; and at the end of his rant (it was a good rant) he says in verse 15: “for the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak …”
Constraineth. Hmm. I wondered just what that meant. So I pulled up my trusty 1828 Webster’s Dictionary (https://1828.mshaffer.com). “Why Webster’s 1828” you ask? Well, folks, when the Prophet Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, the words in Webster’s 1828 were the words of his day, and no doubt the translation was in terms Joseph best understood. And if you compare some of the word meanings of his day, against our day, sometimes there are slight differences.
Anyhow, the world “Constrained” means the following: Urged irresistibly or powerfully; compelled; forced; bound; necessitated. To my limited understanding, our pal, Nephi, HAD to tear into Laman and Lemuel— the two who had helped to create the yin and yang in the family.
I suppose when you’re of the caliber of Nephi, being constrained by the Spirit means you MUST open your mouth and say what the Lord wants you to say, whether your audience likes it or not, and whether it puts your life in danger or not. (Case in point: Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite. I would say they were constrained, the latter fairing better in the end than the former… How hot was that fire, Abinadi?)
Now, given I have delivered my rant on the word “constraineth,”, let’s jump across the column in 1 Nephi 7 to the 21st verse. Ishmael’s daughter (I wonder, did she marry Nephi after this? my romantic self wants to know), and her mother (it stands to reason this woman became Nephi’s mother-in-law at some point—the pool of women to choose a bride from was pretty small for Nephi. either he married a sister [eww], or one of Ishmael’s girls), and one of Ishmael’s sons (a soon to be brother-in-law), talked Laman and Lemuel out of beating up Nephi. Their powers of persuasion must have been pretty good, because Laman and Lemuel were “sorrowful,” did “bow down before” Nephi, and “plead” for forgiveness. I really wonder what in the world those people in Ishmael’s family said? Could they give a fireside in persuasive discourse?
Anyway, moving on, Nephi, being the good kid he was, responded to his brothers in this way: “I did frankly forgive them.” Cool, right? But, as is my pattern, I was snagged by a word, this time, “frankly.” I asked myself, “Self, what would Webster have to say about the word ‘frankly’?”
This is what Webster had to say, “Frankly: openly; freely; ingenuously; without reserve, CONSTRAINT, or disguise …” “What?!” says I, “there is that word again? Self, what could this possibly mean??”
Self has this thought: just as the Spirit can urge us forcefully to speak, we are also urged to forgive without being forced, and to forgive without bounds or restrictions. Seventy times seven, the Lord tells us. (Interesting side note: the number seven means “complete.” Think on that for awhile.)
I’m Irish. There is a joke among those of us who are of Irish descent: “What is Irish Alzheimers? You forget everything but the grudges.” Most of us who have had an Irish relative know just what this means. But taking the counsel I got from two words on one page of the Book of Mormon this morning, my lesson is clear: “Sue, when your little feelings are hurt, or you’re offended, the Spirit constraineth you to frankly forgive without constraints.”