As 2 Nephi begins, Lehi is on his deathbed, and he shares some final words of wisdom with various members of his family as recorded in chapters 1-4. In chapter 1, he speaks primarily to Laman and Lemuel, his oldest sons, who’d given the family the hardest time as they traveled in the wilderness and had never really accepted the Lord into their lives. Here’s a summary of the points Lehi makes as he pleads with his sons:
- Shake off the chains that bind you (verses 13, 23)
- Soften your hardened hearts (verse 17)
- Keep the commandments of God (verses 16, 20)
- Do the above to avoid eternal destruction (verse 22)
- Ultimately, the will of God will be done (verse 19)
The interesting thing about Lehi making this impassioned speech is that he already knew that Laman and Lemuel would never accept the Lord. He knew this from his dream (in 1 Nephi 8) in which he called to Laman and Lemuel to partake of the fruit of the tree of life and they refused. Yet, he didn’t give up on them, trying with all his might to persuade them, right up until the end of his life.
When we consider people we know and love who have not accepted the Lord, the temptation may be to write them off, assuming they will never accept. However, unless God has specifically told us that such a person will never accept Him (and Lehi didn’t give up even then), we should recognize that while there is life, there is hope and continue to pray for such people and encourage them as much as possible in the direction of serving God. None of us wants to even entertain the thought of someone we love suffering eternal destruction, so this should give us incentive to pray for them.
- How about people who make it clear they don’t want to hear about God and have nothing good to say about Him? Clearly, these are people whose hearts are hardened — pray for them to be softened.
- How about people who are caught up in sinful activities? Or people who are so busy with the pursuits of life that they have no room in their lives for God? These are people who are bound with chains — pray for those chains to be broken.
If you want to encourage people to keep the commandments of God, make sure you’re keeping the commandments yourself. Although someone with a hardened heart may not be open to being preached to, showing the love of Christ and sharing the joy that comes with serving God will make a powerful statement to anyone and could make a difference over time.
After we’ve done all of the above, we can leave the results in the hands of God. If there is any little opening to soften a heart or break chains, God will certainly do so. After all, He loves the person even more than we do, so He has incentive, too!
I remember a story about a sister in New Jersey who had a wayward son. As the years went by, everyone she knew told her to cut him off, but she was resolute in continuing to love him and pray for him, insisting that someday he would turn his life around. When this sister was near the end of her life, her son came back to church, gave his life to Christ, and was baptized. The sister got to see her prayers answered before she died.
Perhaps you know someone who came to Christ late in life, after holding out for many years. These were surely the result of someone loving them enough to not give up on them. Who do you know now who might benefit by you not giving up on them?
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.