Helaman 10:7-11, 11:3-5 — LeGrand Baker — How Prophets Pray
7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
8 And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.
9 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.
10 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.
11 And now behold, I command you, that ye shall go and declare unto this people, that thus saith the Lord God, who is the Almighty: Except ye repent ye shall be smitten, even unto destruction.
3 And it came to pass that in this year Nephi did cry unto the Lord, saying:
4 O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee.
5 And so it was done, according to the words of Nephi. And there was a great famine upon the land, among all the people of Nephi. And thus in the seventy and fourth year the famine did continue, and the work of destruction did cease by the sword but became sore by famine.
When I was a boy I was taught that said that the Lord had so much confidence in Nephi that he would let the prophet have his own way in whatever he wanted. I have since learned that is a very simplistic way of reading that scripture. If we assume we have every relevant detail about the story, then we might also assume the famine was entirely Nephi’s idea. The problem is that is not what it says and that is not what the story implies.
As soon as the Lord gave him that promise, he follows it up with instructions about what Nephi should do next. He did not leave it up to Nephi to decide what he wanted to do.
The next part of the story simply tells us that Nephi observed the situation, prayed and asked the Lord to cause “a famine in the land.” And it happened. The implication we often read into the story is that this was entirely Nephi’s idea, but there is no evidence that is so. We are told nothing except what Nephi said in his prayer. The conversation between Nephi and the Lord that resulted in the prayer, we are not told, but I suppose were expected to know the essence of it anyway.
There are two things about this story that intrigue me. The first is I wonder how unique the promise really is — the sealing power is, of course, very extraordinary, but not the promise that the prophet can have anything he asks for. When we check, we find that the promise is not at all unique — but in most example it is entirely conditional!
As I understand it, that conditional promise is extended to all of us: If we pray with faith (pistis), listen to the spirit, and ask only what we are instructed to ask, then that prayer will surely be answered in the affirmative. Here are a few examples of that promise:
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
3 Nephi 17:3
3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.
3 Nephi 18:17—20
17 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto his disciples, he turned again unto the multitude and said unto them:
18 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.
19 Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
3 Nephi 27:27—29
27 And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.
28 And now I go unto the Father. And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you.
29 Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.