1 Nephi 7:6-11 — LeGrand Baker — “How is it that ye have forgotten?”

1 Nephi 7:6-11  

6 And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
7 And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.
8 And now I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, therefore I spake unto them, saying, yea, even unto Laman and unto Lemuel: Behold ye are mine elder brethren, and how is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds, that ye have need that I, your younger brother, should speak unto you, yea, and set an example for you?
9 How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?
10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?

Nephi’s words to his brothers are a brilliant, concise, and a thorough analysis of the attitudes of one who apostatizes. Nephi asked, “How is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds?” To know what he is asking, we must define the purposes, objects, and uses of one’s heart and mind.

In our world, we assign all thoughtful activity to our brains, leaving our emotions only symbolically to our “hearts.” That is easy to understand because we do not feel any emotions in our head. Not even our academia seems to be a part of our head. When we learn new and exciting information, we do not feel the excitement in our head, but rather in our chest—in our “heart.” That is equally true of our emotions—we feel them in our “heart”—except for compassion. If we were to see a puppy hit by a car, we would feel it right in the pit of our stomach—thus the phrase, “bowels of mercy.” But all other emotions we feel in the heart. So the ancients were describing their experiences when they attributed almost all of their intellectual and emotional activities to their hearts.{1}

Thus, in Proverbs, the admonition, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart”(Proverbs 3:1-8), is talking about total trust: academic, emotional, as well as spiritual.

The heart was also the internal judge by which one evaluated the truthfulness and usefulness of any idea or emotion. That is, any information, philosophy, religious idea, or emotional response that was not found within the circle of the things the heart accepted, was not considered by the person to be, true, meaningful, or valid. The heart was the key to one’s worldview—because it defined what one accepted as truth; it also defined one’s Self. Thus, Samuel could be instructed, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart “ (1 Samuel 16:7). Ezekiel was promised that if the people would repent, God “will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Now the question is, what is a hard heart? That phrase is apparently used with some precision in the scriptures. As Alma explained it, a hard heart is one that refuses to learn the mysteries of God. If the heart is the seat of judgement by which one decides what is truth, then a hard heart is one that has judged the principles of the gospel to be of no value, and has discarded them as untrue. Alma says that if we do that, then we forget the things we once prized as eternal truth (Alma 12:9-11).

Nephi was concerned that his brothers had forgotten. He asked, “How is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds?” His question poses another question to us. If the heart was where people thought and learned, and where people decided what was true and what was false, then what was the mind for? What did Nephi mean by a blinded “mind”? The answer to that question was given by King Benjamin:

9 Open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view (Mosiah 2:9).

The “mind” was to the spirit what the “heart” was to the body. That is, the “mind” is the seat of the intellect and emotions of our spiritual Self, and it serves the same function in spiritual matters as the heart does in worldly matters. Sometimes, in the scriptures, it is called the “spirit,” sometimes it is only called the “mind,” but whichever it is called, it is the part of the human soul that gives us access to the light of heaven, and makes our bodies alive. One of the major functions of the Holy Ghost is to facilitate communication between our spirit with its memory of things past, and our “heart,” with its memory limited to things of this world. The tragedy is that if the heart becomes increasingly hardened, that communication is eclipsed until a light goes out, and darkness settles in.

That idea of a dual intellect—one physical and one spiritual—is found throughout the Old Testament. Thus a prayer in the Psalms reads, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalms 51:10) Six times in his last great sermon to the Israelites, Moses repeated the command, to “love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”{2} Elsewhere in the Old Testament that command is repeated several more times.{3}

Lehi spoke to his sons about his own “soul” and “heart” in the same sentence he spoke of his sons’ “mind” and “heart” (2 Nephi 1:21). In Job’s lament that he did not die before his troubles began, he uses “mind” to speak of the seat of God’s intellect, but he uses “heart” to describe his own (Job 23:12-17).{4}

It is the “mind” that understands visions and revelations. Nephi observed of his father, “the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water” (1 Nephi 15:25-27).{5}

The spiritual “mind” is a vital part of one’s Self, for the quality of one’s spiritual intellect is all-important.{6} The scriptures often use heart and mind in tandem, emphasizing that, notwithstanding our dual nature, we are really one person. It also recognizes the tensions between our physical self and our spirit, trying to create a unity between them that defines one’s Self as a single, eternal Self.

Moses warned the children of Israel that if they chose not to serve the Lord, he “shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life” (Deuteronomy 28:65-66).{7}

The phrase, “might, mind, and strength,” seems to have reference to spiritual vigor. King Benjamin contrasts his having “all manner of infirmities in body and mind” with his determination to serve the people “with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me” (Mosiah 2:11). In the Doctrine and Covenants “heart” is added: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him (D&C 59:5, 4:2).{8}

The interrelationship between one’s heart and one’s mind is frequently mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Like Nephi, several Book of Mormon prophets warn against the double danger of a hard heart and a blind mind.{9}

In contrast, as Moroni warned, forgetting one’s testimony is one of the most apparent and dangerous symptoms of a hardened heart and a blinded mind.

When Nephi confronted his brothers, he was zeroing in on that early evidence of their apostasy. For Nephi, who understood that symptom, it was probably an understatement when he recalled, “And now I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” When he spoke to his brothers, there must have been urgency and pleading in his voice as he asked, “How is it that ye have forgotten?”


{1} For a discussion of ancient understanding of the “heart” see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 613, 886-7, 964; Second edition, p. 437, 622-3, 671

{2} Others are 1 Kings 23:1-3;Deuteronomy 6:5-6, 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, 26:16, 30:2-6.

{3} 1 Kings 2:4; Joshua 22:5; Jeremiah 32:41.

{4} Other places that speak of God’s “mind” are Leviticus 24:11-13 and Jeremiah 15:1-2. The phrase “heart, might, mind and strength” is found in the Doctrine and Covenants three times (42:2, 59:3-6, and 98:47). However it is not found in the Book of Mormon. However, the phrase “might, mind and strength” is found there in three places (Mosiah 2:11, Alma 39:13, and Moroni 10:32) and twice in the Doctrine and Covenants (11:20 and 33:7).

{5} Other examples of the “mind” being an important part of revelations are Numbers 24:13-14; Enos 1:10; Alma 19:6, 32:34-35.

{6} Other examples of mind as intellect is Numbers 16:28-29, Mormon 1:15, Moroni 7:28-31, D&C 9:8.

{7} Other places where the mind shows emotion are: Genesis 26:34-35; Proverbs 21:26-28; Lamentations 3:20-21; Alma 15:3-5, 22:1-3

{8} Others spoke of loving and worshiping God with “all your mind, might, and strength.”1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Daniel 5:20, 2 Nephi 25:29, Alma 39:13, Moroni 10:32.

{9} See also 1 Nephi 14:7, 17:30; Jacob 3:1; Jarom 1:3; Mosiah 7:33; Alma 13:4, 48:3; 3 Nephi 2:1, 7:16; Ether 4:15; Moses 7:18.

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