Don't Tell Me What to Do (1 Nephi 18)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Posted in Scripture Study

Don't Tell Me What to Do (1 Nephi 18)

Over the last few chapters, we've seen the Lord direct Lehi's family to the border of the Arabian Sea and work through Nephi to build a ship that would take the family across the many waters to the land of the Americas. In 1 Nephi 18, the family boards the ship and begins the voyage.

One day during the trip, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael and their wives began to have sort of a party with singing and dancing. Perhaps if the party had been limited to this, it wouldn't have been a problem, but the account states that they did "speak with much rudeness, yea, even that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither; yea, they were lifted up unto exceeding rudeness" (verse 9).

As Nephi witnessed this "exceeding rudeness," he feared that it would be offensive to the Lord who was, after all, in charge of this trip, having built the ship and provided the compass to direct them across the waters. So, Nephi approached the group and suggested that they might want to be mindful of their behavior, lest they offend God and put the entire trip at risk. The brothers, of course, reacted with anger, saying "We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us" (verse 10). In other words — "Don't tell us what to do!"

Don't-Tell-Me-What-to-Do Syndrome affects each of us starting very early in life. It can be directed at parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc. It's a reason why many people are turned off by religion; they see it as something just set up to tell them what they can and can't do. Some of the factors that drive this syndrome are:

  • Pride (I don't want anyone to think I don't know what to do)
  • Strong will (I want what I want when I want it)
  • Distrust of motives (I don't believe that what I'm being told is necessarily what's best for me)

We need to be careful not to allow these factors to interfere with receiving valuable direction from God. First and foremost, be assured that God can be trusted! Here are a couple of passages that come to mind:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good (Alma 37:37)

If we truly trust God, we should be able to put our will second to His. As an example, imagine if you retained an attorney to represent you in a legal situation. When the attorney instructs you on a course of action, you're not going to say, "Don't tell me what to do." You'll follow the instructions to the letter. That's because you're trusting that the attorney has your best interests at heart (that's what you're paying for). If you can trust your attorney, then you can surely trust God to have your best interests at heart!

Then there's pride. Considering that there are so many people who say they don't need God (or anyone else) to tell them what to do, there are many messed-up lives that are a direct result of decisions made by people who "know what to do." A better example to follow is that of one of the wisest men who ever lived, King Solomon, whose words from 1 Kings 3:7 are part of the chorus of Songs of Zion hymn No. 44:

Not knowing how to go out or come in Lord.
Like a child, never sure of the way.
Not often having the answers before me,
But only trusting my Father each day.

As a servant of God, we have a great source of direction available to us. Our daily prayer should be, "Lord, tell me what to do!"

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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