1 Nephi 17:7 — LeGrand Baker — “I arose and went up into the mountain”

1 Nephi 17:7 

7. And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been in the land of Bountiful for the space of many days, the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying: Arise, and get thee into the mountain. And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord.

There is much one can learn from this seemingly incidental part of Nephi’s story. Its importance is emphasized by similar circumstances being repeated over and over again throughout the scriptures and sacred history. There are many examples of prophets finding seclusion on a mountain in order to speak with God. Not everyone has immediate access to the quietude of a mountain, but that is not the point. The point is this: When the Spirit says “stop what you are doing and go to the mountain” or “go for a walk” or “go to your room” or “sit quietly and listen,” then one should obey.

We take the sacrament weekly as a token of the covenant that we will do our part to have the Spirit always be with us, but we sometimes get too busy to listen when he is there. That is like walking in the mountains with a friend but ceaselessly talking about a football game, or about politics, or about philosophy all the way going and coming—and never really having been on the mountain at all.

We often get on our knees and expect the Lord to answer our questions just then, while we are taking the minute to talk at him. We grunt and groan inside, trying to get as “spiritual” as we can for the experience. Nothing happens and we go away disappointed, or we let our own enthusiasm get in the way of our listening and go away convinced that the Lord shares that enthusiasm and that he approves of whatever it was we tried to convince him to sanction. Then when it doesn’t work out, we respond incredulously, “But I prayed!” Or else we kneel down with our hearts so full of sorrow, or disappointment or fear that those feelings take up all the space in our heart and soul and we go away thinking that we have had “a stupor of thought,” so that must be God’s answer. Shakespeare expressed the problem clearly when he had King Claudius say,

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.{1}

Real prayer is not a routine, night and morning recital of our usual shopping list. It is a quiet conversation, but the time for such quietude is sometimes hard to come by. There is an ancient Jewish tradition according to which Satan and one of his henchmen watched as Adam and Eve left the Garden. Satan tells his subordinate how to frustrate God’s plans— simply fill up human life with so much trivia that people will be too busy to listen to the Spirit. It concludes, “Cast men into great distractions and pains in life, so that their men should be preoccupied with life, and not have time to attend on the Holy Spirit.”{2}

That is why a quiet prayer is so important. Prayer is a togetherness. It is walking in a mountain with a friend. Sometimes stopping to talk. Sometimes just needing to talk and talk and know that you are being listened to. Sometimes filling one’s mind by listening to what he has to say. Sometimes filling one’s whole soul by just knowing that you and he are together.

Our world tends to crowd out such prayer, and the needs of just living can make that forever so. But when the Spirit whispers, “Arise, and get thee into the mountain,” it is time to go and to walk with a Friend.
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FOOTNOTES

{1} Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3.

{2} Roger Aubrey Bullard, The Hypostasis of the Archons (Berlin, Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1970), 29, lines 7-11.
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