Sunday, April 3, 2016

2 Nephi 4:31 - Would You? Will You?

For about half a week, I've been ponderizing 2 Nephi 4:31, which I will now type from memory.

O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?

As I've been pondering this verse, I've discovered that, depending on the punctuation, there could be as many as three ways to interpret Nephi's prayer. Firstly, it's pretty clear that Nephi is praying for blessings. I said about as much when I started ponderizing this verse. Nephi would love for God to redeem his soul, to deliver him out of the hands of his enemies, and to make him that he may shake at the appearance of sin. He wants to be more righteous, so he is praying for help.

Another way to read this is incorrect, but when I started ponderizing this verse, I couldn't remember how the verse was punctuated. I couldn't recall whether it used question marks or periods at the ends of the sentences. If it used periods, which it doesn't, then we could have interpreted Nephi's prayer as confident statements of truth rather than requests. In that sense, Nephi would effectively be saying "I know in whom I have trusted. I know that you will redeem my soul. I know that you will deliver me from sin. I know that my moral struggle against my sinful flesh is only temporary. I know that, in time, I will no longer have the problems that trouble me now." In this sense, Nephi's statements would be full of confidence and faith. It is important to have faith in the Atonement and salvation of the Lord.

However, the sentences were actually punctuated with question marks, which means that these sentences are actually questions. They can be interpreted as requests, and I think that it the correct interpretation, but you could also look at the questions at face value. "Will you redeem my soul? Will you deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Will you make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?" These questions, especially the first two, are essentially asking "Is there any hope for me? Am I going to be saved?" God knows the future, including the future of each soul. Theoretically, He knows whether or not a person is ultimately going to be saved. Even though the answer depends largely on our actions, God knows what the answer is, and He could tell us, if we ask.

However, He might not tell us. If He knows that we're not going to choose salvation, He isn't going to tell us that because He doesn't want us to give up or to think that He has already consigned us to hell (though it's really ourselves taking us there through our actions). If we are going to be saved, He might not tell us because He knows that telling us that we're guaranteed to succeed might make us stop trying as hard. I've seen many video clips of people who were sure they would win a race even before they crossed the finish line, so they started celebrating prematurely, allowing the person in second place to surge ahead of them. Becoming perfect takes a significant amount of effort, and God wouldn't want to tell us anything that may cause us to slack in our efforts prematurely.

On the other hand, He might tell us, if it would encourage us. Some people already believe that their cause is hopeless, and they're already close to, or beyond, the point of giving up. Those people, God may tell that they will succeed, to let them know that they're not hopeless, to let them know that their struggle is not in vain. However, He will still want to be careful not to move someone from hopelessness to complacency, so whatever our situation is, He probably won't tell us now whether we are going to be saved eventually or not. Besides, I'm pretty sure the answer to on of those questions is going to be "no," no matter who you are.

God doesn't usually just remove problems from people or release people from their problems. Facing problems and learning to overcome them is one of the purposes of life. Especially, learning to resist temptation and reject sin is one of the primary goals of mortality, so I don't think that God would simply deliver us from sin, just because we ask Him to. What He probably will do is give us (or help us develop) the strength and wisdom to deliver ourselves.

What I've learned from this experience is that scriptures can be interpreted in many different ways, so it makes sense to ponder them over long periods of time. Also, I think it's most likely that the correct interpretation of this particular verse is that Nephi is asking for help from God, and we should too, so long as we remember that God's help will most likely come in the form of giving us the power to help ourselves.

I'm glad I ponderized this verse. I think I am going to keep turning to it as my "delete key," unless I find a better "delete key" later on. I'm not sure which verse I'm going to ponderize next. Maybe a verse will stand out to me during Conference. If not, I'll just pick one before the end of the day, and I'll announce my choice tomorrow. Until then, I hope you all enjoy the last two sessions of Conference and that we all feel spiritually recharged by the end of them.

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