You may have noticed that there aren’t that many happy stories so far. Don’t worry, there will be. But you should also know now that this book doesn’t end happily, exactly. There’s going to be a lot of sad stories that lead to a really sad ending. But that’s the thing about Jesus. He can take our very saddest stories, the most terrible moments in our lives, in the history of the world, and redeem them.
Redeem, a definition:
To redeem means taking something that’s completely lost, or broken, or ruined, and making it okay, even when that seems impossible. And that’s what Jesus does. He finds people who are lost, people who are broken, people who have fallen into dark, dirty, deep, smelly holes where they are hiding their sad and ruined selves, and He brings light into the hole where they had been stuck. And He lifts them up from the ground and wipes the dirt from their eyes, and He holds them close and weeps with them because they were sad and also because He is glad that they have been found.
And this story starts with something terribly sad. Laman and Lemuel had become so unhappy and hurt that they stopped believing that Nephi loved them, and that Lehi loved them, and that God loved them. And that made them sad, and then that made them angry. Every time they saw Nephi they felt sadness and anger boiling together in their bellies. And that was uncomfortable to have a roiling, bubbling belly all the time. And they thought, maybe if they don’t have to see Nephi any more, their bellies won’t hurt so much all the time. And so they decided they wanted to do a bad thing. They decided they wanted to kill Nephi.
But God protected Nephi, like he had protected Lehi and Sariah. He told Nephi that he needed to bring his family and run far away to a new home in The Promised Land. So Nephi and Sam and Zoram and their wives, and their children, and Jacob and Joseph and their wives, and their children packed up all their things and slipped away into the night. The next time they saw Laman and Lemuel, they fought again. But it wasn’t like brothers having an argument. They were fighting with bows and arrows and armies because the family was actually at war with each other.
Everything had become topsy turvy. God had sent them here to The Promised Land because God loves families, and He wanted to save this family and give them a home where they could be safe and happy. And now the family was actually destroying itself. Instead of feeling safe and happy, they were fighting and hating and trying to kill each other. Everyone felt confused, and scared, and heartbroken, and sometimes angry. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen at all!
And one day, Jacob’s heart was aching so he decided to read his scriptures. He was reading something that another prophet called Isaiah wrote. And maybe, a hundred years earlier, Isaiah was also feeling sad, or scared, or hopeless, because God was comforting Isaiah. Jacob read:
Do you think that I have forgotten you? Or that I sold you away to someone else to take care of you? Or maybe do you think that your sin is more powerful than my goodness? Perhaps you think that I do not have the strength to redeem you. Have you forgotten me? I dressed the sky in a blanket of stars so you would have light. I raised continents up from the ocean so you would have land, and the waters and the rocks speak my name. I put fish in the rivers, and plants on the earth so you would have beauty and strength and life. And you are precious to me.
Wherever you are, I will love you. When you are in the wilderness, I will comfort you. When you are in the garden, I will rejoice with you. When the continents fall back into the ocean, and the waters dry up, and the earth becomes so old it is like a rag with so many holes, I will come to you and I will call you by name, and you will see that I have never forgotten you for a moment.
Jacob read what Isaiah wrote, and he understood. Even though everything was all wrong, God would make everything alright. Maybe not now. Maybe not in while he was alive. But someday, God would send a redeemer. The Redeemer, Jesus. And Jesus would find every single one of God’s children from whatever holes or corners they were trapped in, and he would redeem them all. Every single one.
But what is remarkable, what you maybe have noticed already, is that redeeming is what Jesus was doing at that very second. He had found Jacob, and his family, and Nephi, and his family, and Sam and Joseph and Zoram and their families, and he saw that they were in a hole called confusion and despair. And he was standing in the hole with them, and weeping with them, and weeping for Laman and Lemuel who were so angry and unhappy, and he was reaching out to all of them, and trying to help them see that even this sad story would be redeemed.