The time had come: it was finally time for the family to travel to the Promise Land! But there was a problem. The Promise Land wasn’t in the desert, or next to the desert, or anywhere near the desert. It was all the way across the ocean. So God told Nephi he needed to build a ship strong enough to make the trip without breaking into a million pieces.
Do you know how to build a ship? Nephi didn’t either. But luckily, God knew, and he showed Nephi step by step. And it took a lot of steps. He had to go to the mountain and find metal hidden in the rocks. He had to melt down that metal into tools (like a hammer). He had to cut down trees and make wood from the trunks. Like I said. There were a lot of steps.
And Laman and Lemuel came along too . . . to watch . . . and point . . . and laugh. “Nephi thinks he can make a ship, and that he can sail across the ocean by himself,” they laughed.
But of course, Nephi didn’t think that at all. He thought God could help him make a ship, and that God could help the family sail across the ocean. And that’s very different than thinking you could do those things all by yourself.
So Nephi explained that to them, that God was there helping him build the ship. God was there in the rocks, helping Nephi pull the metal out. He was there in the trees, helping Nephi find the strongest wood. He was even there with Nephi at that very moment as he was talking with his brothers. Nephi lifted his hand and touched Laman to show him so he could see and believe him, and Laman and Lemuel felt God’s power like a shock.
So Laman and Lemuel picked up the hammer and the wood and began helping Nephi. And together the four of them—Laman and Lemuel, Nephi and God—built a boat that would carry the entire family across the ocean and to the Promise Land.
And when it was finished, God said “All aboard!” And all of the families, with all of their food and animals and clothes and seeds, climbed up inside the boat. “Goodbye, desert! Goodbye, Goodbye! We’re going away to the Promise Land.” They waved, and the ship slipped away into the ocean.
And the winds blew, and the waves rocked, and the big ship large enough to cross the ocean suddenly started to feel very small and cramped. If you rolled over in your sleep, you would roll over right on top of someone else. Or if you wanted to stretch your arms in the morning, you might poke someone else right in the eye. And it didn’t take too long until everyone felt sick, and tired, and grumpy.
Laman and Lemuel were especially unhappy. “We’re all miserable, and tired, and smelly, and it’s Nephi’s fault!” they complained. “He brought us out here into the middle of the ocean, and now we’re all going to die here!” See, they thought God had forgotten them because they had forgotten God. They thought maybe God didn’t care about this family stuck in a ship halfway between Jerusalem and the Promise Land. Maybe God didn’t love them, or maybe he didn’t want them to be happy. Which just shows that Laman and Lemuel didn’t understand God very well.
And Laman and Lemuel were sick and scared and angry, so they tied Nephi up to the boat. And that made God sad to see the brothers fighting. God was trying to give the family something good: a new home where they could grow, and pray, and love. But instead they were angry and trying to hurt each other. So God began to weep, and his tears became a great storm that filled the whole ocean. And the little boat was tossed back and forth on the waves like a tennis ball.
And Laman and Lemuel began to see that God was unhappy. And they began to see also that if they didn’t do something quick then the boat would flip over and they would have to swim to the Promise Land. So they untied Nephi, and asked Nephi to forgive them for being angry, and also asked if Nephi wouldn’t mind saving everybody’s lives.
And Nephi, who was pretty good at getting his prayers answered really fast, said a prayer, and the storm stopped. Just like that. And everybody was so glad that the storm had stopped that they didn’t mind so much being crowded and smelly and sick.
And God blew gently now into the sails and pushed the ship through the ocean to the Promise Land. And before long, they could see it! There, just between the ocean and the sky. God had brought them to a new home! And when they arrived they stumbled from the boat and fell onto the sand and they kissed the water and the earth and the trees. “God, it is all very good,” they said. And it was very good, like you are good, and I am good, and everything God has made is good.