Why Did Nephi Go and Do?

1 Nephi 3:7 makes it onto most LDS members’ lists of favorite inspirational scriptures,Swoosh in part because “I will go and do” is a very short, catchy line.  It also helps that it shows up at the very beginning of the Book of Mormon and it can be quickly visualized or illustrated with Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” catchphrase and Swoosh logo.

More substantively, in this verse, Nephi delivers a powerful can-do attitude, blended with an absolute expression of faith in the Lord.  Nephi, an amazing young man, announces his willingness to tackle a very difficult task, fully trusting that he will succeed because he knows with perfect surety that “the Lord giveth no commandment to the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing that he commandeth them”.  This is the kind of faith that we all wish we could bottle up and store to help ourselves, and those we work with, make it through those all-too-frequent “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief” moments.

To understand what makes Nephi’s expression of unbounded faith possible, it helps to step back and review what led up to his bold declaration.  From the opening verses of the Book of Mormon, we discover that Nephi was born of goodly parents and learned at a very young age to understand spiritual matters and how the Lord works with His children.  In the Parable of the Sower, Nephi would nicely personify the fertile soil where the seed can grow and flourish.  But we can also learn some great leadership principles exhibited by Nephi’s father Lehi in the verses that immediately precede Nephi’s famous declaration of faith.

In verse two of 1 Nephi, Chapter 3, Lehi relates to his son that the Lord has just revealed to him that Nephi and his brethren are return to Jerusalem.  This is critical, because Nephi needs to understand that this is not something that his dad is asking him to do; this is a “calling” that comes from the Lord himself.  I call this the Preface step.  Here, Lehi is, in effect, saying, “before we get into the specifics of the task at hand, son, let’s make sure that you understand exactly who is asking you to carry out this assignment.  This is a job that the Lord himself has asked me to give to you”.  Lehi reiterates the source of this commandment in verse five.

Purpose.  The next thing that Lehi does, is to provide his son with the specifics of his “errand from the Lord”; he is to retrieve the Brass Plates which are located in Jerusalem in Laban’s possession and bring them out to Lehi in the wilderness.  Most importantly, Lehi tells his son why this difficult assignment must be undertaken.  Lehi explains that the plates contain the currently existing scriptures, plus a record of Lehi’s family history. The Lord has just announced that Lehi’s family is to trek to a choice, but far-distant land, never to return to Jerusalem.  Under these circumstances, the family will need to take with them the Lord’s revealed word to His children, along with a record of their family heritage, which establishes them as the Lord’s covenant people and ties them back to the Lord’s prophets who received those revelations.

The final two leadership principles that Lehi uses are to Promise and to Praise.  In verse six, Lehi not only assures Nephi that he will be favored of the Lord in this endeavor, but adds to this assignment his own confidence that his son is capable of this task, based on what he has observed of Nephi character and capabilities.

In short, Nephi’s priesthood leader has just told him that the Lord has a very specific assignment that Nephi was specifically selected to accomplish, what the assignment consists of and how if fits into the bigger picture, assured Nephi that the Lord will bless him in completing the assignment and added his own witness as to why he believes Nephi is equal to the task, based on what he has observed his son accomplish up to that time.  And with that foundation, Nephi boldly testifies of his own belief that with the Lord’s assistance, he can accomplish hard things. And then he goes and does.

I had my own “go and do” moment back in 1997 in St. Louis where an amazing priesthood leader inspired me to accomplish something that was completely beyond my own capabilities. I had been called to serve as the Parking and Transportation Chairman for the newly announced St. Louis Temple. With that assignment I was responsible for putting together a plan and a team to park and deliver all of the visitors who showed up to the Temple Open House during May of 1997 and all the invited guests to the dedicatory sessions in June.  With a lot of help from a lot of people, my team planned and trained over 2,000 parking attendants recruited from thirty stakes across ten states, parked over 100,000 vehicles and delivered more than a quarter of a million guests to the Open House in four weeks.  That was slightly more than four times the numbers that the Temple Department had told us to prepare for.

This was back before temple dedications were broadcast to nearby church buildings, so for the upcoming dedication, we had to bring everyone who was attending to the temple itself.  And since they were running up to five sessions a day, back to back, we needed each of the 1,200 people who were attending each session staged outside the temple waiting while the previous session was in progress.  It seemed like a huge task, but we had come up with what we felt was a workable plan.

Until the roof caved in.  Two weeks before the dedication was to begin, Missouri Baptist College, which owned the property adjacent to the temple, where we were counting on parking the majority of the cars, was told by their national board of directors that they could not participate.  This was huge because the temple parking lot could only fit about a third of the cars we needed, had a single entry/exit, and there were no other lots close enough to stage the types of numbers we needed to handle the invited numbers of guests.

I remember that after I got the news, I went, almost in tears to Menlo Smith, the first St. Louis Temple President, who was responsible for the entire Temple Open House and Dedication and telling him, “I can’t do it.” He listened kindly to my fears and doubts, consoled me then quietly shifted into “Lehi” mode.  He reminded me that it was not he nor any other person who had given me this calling; I had been called by the Lord.  He talked about how important the dedication of this temple was to the Lord, and asked me to rehearse to him all that we had accomplished over the past few weeks with the Open House.  He then told me it was clear to him that the Lord wanted the dedication handled in His own way, not by relying on other groups, and just as clearly, the Lord’s hand had been manifest in the way we had carried out the Open House logistics. He finished with, “Brother Clark, the Lord has called you to this work because He knows you can do it.  But he has allowed these latest stumbling blocks because He wants you to learn what you are capable of accomplishing if you put your whole trust in Him.”

So I grabbed Randal Pope, my able assistant and we prayed and we sweated.  A lot. And then it suddenly came to us.  We raced over to the temple and started measuring to see how many cars we could squeeze onto that lot if we ignored all conventional wisdom and the painted lines, but still met fire code requirements, handicap parking needs and the necessity to both empty and fill a different half of the parking lot between each session.  From a single entrance/exit.

It was an engineering masterpiece on paper, but a bit more than a scary proposition to trial with the entire First Presidency and nine members of the Quorum of the Twelve sitting in the temple, waiting for 23,000 guests to arrive on time and in a spirit befitting the dedication of the Lord’s house. I took the plan to President Menlo Smith and he told me if anyone else had brought this scheme to him he would have sent them out the door.

So we introduced dense-pack parking, and we consistently shoe-horned 600 cars onto a 250 car parking lot for nineteen dedicatory sessions over five days.  It took some encouraging to convince drivers to park where we told them, and we had visitors from Salt Lake in a constant fret that it would crash and burn.  But it ran like a finely tuned watch the entire time and even the General Authorities started popping out to see how it worked.  And when I sat in the celestial room for the first dedicatory session and heard the words that the Lord had accepted the offering of those who had sacrificed and struggled to deliver this House to him, I wept like a baby.

So this is a big preamble to say that the shoe is now on the other foot.  A big challenge we face with Auditing in West Africa is the distributed nature of the work.  To get 1,000 audits completed each six months, we rely on sixteen volunteer associates who each cover seven or eight stakes, each stake comprising about eight congregations.  Michelle and I were told that our main job is to train and be a resource to these assistant auditors, and that their job is to train and be a resource to the stake presidencies, who are then charged with organizing teams of auditors to be trained and to conduct financial audits of each congregation and to ensure that each identified issue that is not in compliance is properly resolved.

There are any number of ways to ensure that the job gets done, but to get the audits done in a meaningful fashion, we need for for our assistants, the stake presidents, bishops and clerks to believe that this is a meaningful exercise.

I love the way Michelle introduces each of our training sessions, noting that once you understand the Why, accomplishing the How of the Church’s audit program becomes relatively easy.  So we focus heavily on explaining the doctrines that govern the handling of the funds that are consecrated to the Lord by His saints.

To carry out this assignment properly, our team needs to do more than just train and be a resource to answer priesthood leader’s questions.  Like Lehi did with his son Nephi, and like Menlo Smith did nearly twenty years ago in St. Louis with an overwhelmed young man, our most important role is to inspire and help our diverse audit team scattered across seven West African countries believe that the Lord has identified and called them to this task, ensure that they gain a witness of the gravity of the responsibility, and firmly believe they will successfully fill their assignment if they will put their trust in the Lord who called them to this work.

And the most rewarding part of this job is meet with these amazing brethren, to read letters and to talk with them and see that how far along that path each of them has come.  We are really having fun here.

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One thought on “Why Did Nephi Go and Do?

  1. Doug and Michelle for president!
    I loved reading this blog because I know that you are a man of God like Nephi. Your experience and wisdom read like scripture to me.
    Your willing heart and legs have always inspired me.
    Love and miss you guys
    Cam

    Like

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