Note: I was asked to speak in my ward’s Sacrament meeting today. Because of COVID-times, it was a different experience to have only half the ward and see them all separated out on the benches. And for me to be the main event: aka the only speaker (poor souls, haha). I decided to share my talk on my blog because I am vainglorious.
Today I would like to share a few stories. My prayer is that in hearing them, you will feel the Spirit and hear the message that you need to hear and act on the promptings that you feel.
First, I’ll begin with a familiar story. It’s familiar because it is one we often tell and it is also found in the Come, Follow Me lesson for this week.
As we enter 3 Nephi in our studies, let me set up some context. We are fast approaching the chapters that the Introduction to the Book of Mormon claims as the “crowning event recorded” which is “the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection.”
But this story is in the “before times”—right before He comes. We know that five years before the coming of Christ, Samuel the Lamanite begins to teach about the Savior’s coming. He foretells that in five years, “then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on His name.” (Helaman 14: 2). And he tells of a sign. “Great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day. Therefore there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were no night” (Helaman 14:3-4). He also foretells of a new star and many other signs and wonders in heaven.
So you can imagine what the feelings and thoughts might be of the believers as five years approaches from the time of the prophecy.
In 3 Nephi we read “the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and miracles” among the people (3 Nephi 1:4).
I can imagine being one of the believers and seeing all the signs and hoping for the Savior’s coming. And waiting all day through the sunlight and hoping that night that as the sun set that the light would remain and it would be the long-awaited for sign. I feel a sense of hope in their waiting. Yet I also feel a sense of anxiety and concern. They “watched steadfastly” as the scripture says. And why? “That they might know that their faith had not been vain.” (vs. 8). Yet each night, the sun goes down and there is darkness where they are pleading for the sign of the light. In fact, the tension builds as those who did not believe set aside a day that they would put the believers to death unless the sign came.
How hard would it be to keep believing as you see the sun set each night and you’re plunged into darkness? And for believing in this marvelous and extraordinary event, you could lose your life.
Nephi, who has been given charge over the records of the people feels the strain and mourns for his people. He prays all day and the voice of the Lord comes to him. “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of the prophets” (3 Nephi 1:13).
And then…the words were fulfilled. “At the going down of the sun there was no darkness.” (3 Nephi 1:15). “And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.” (3 Nephi 1: 20, emphasis added)
The Savior had come. The long nights of waiting. The uncertainty. Yet the Savior had come into the world to redeem mankind. Just as He said he would. To truly fulfill all that He had spoken through the prophets.
Let me share another story that has touched my heart this past week. My grandparents and I have been watching this series called “The Chosen” which is a dramatized show about the New Testament. This last week, we watched about the rock on which Christ built His Church, His apostle Peter. Peter has always been someone I identify with in the scriptures because he’s impetuous and would give his life for the gospel but also sometimes forgets a bit about what he believes. The beauty of this experience from his life was brought more forcefully to me this week.
In the New Testament, in Luke chapter 5 and combined with the account in Matthew chapter four, I will again contextualize the situation. I am taking a few liberties as I combine these with how I understand the situation through my studies so we can potentially gather more details of the situation. Peter and Andrew have been out fishing through the night on the lake of Genesserat, which is also known as the Sea of Galilee. Either along with them or nearby are James and John, who were fishing partners with Peter.
According to Peter’s account, all the dark night long they had been casting in their nets. Cast in and they pull them back in empty. And they cast them in again. And pull them back empty. In again, out again. Empty. All night long. This is their livelihood. This is how they provide for themselves. Yet that night left them without anything to show for their work. Yet they kept casting and pulling in.
And the next morning, they are out washing their nets. Christ is teaching on the shore and because of the crowds, upon seeing Peter’s boat, He asks Peter if He can use it to teach people from the ship. And after He finishes teaching, He says to Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.”
Here is our friend Peter, who has toiled all night long and caught nothing. He had just been cleaning his nets. I can imagine how I would feel. I would probably think I was being toyed with. Yet Peter responds first with the word “Master”—I believe this was a recognition of who was asking him to do this. And then “we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
And the nets filled to the point of breaking. Peter calls to his partners in the other ship and together they fill both ships with fish, “so that they began to sink.”
In again, out again, all night long. And at the Savior’s call to just try once more, they were filled to overflowing with what they were seeking.
Now I’d like to liken these two stories unto us.
What are the moments in your life right now where like those in the Book of Mormon you are just waiting for the light to stay? What are the moments where you are waiting for the sign you need? And yet every night the darkness comes?
I don’t know what all those moments might be for you. For me, I have felt this way with the challenges this year has brought us. It feels like with the pandemic we shouldn’t have any other trials we have to deal with. But we do. There seems to be so much pressing down on us. Every day I wonder if the Savior can show forth a sign that will stop some of these challenges. That will unite us and stop the strife that we feel even among members of our own Church as contentions rise over diverse opinions. I also feel it in certain situations among those I love when I am just begging the Lord to come and heal and soften hearts and eliminate anger.
I am reminded, as was Nephi in the Book of Mormon that the promise is that Christ will come. He will. And even before His coming, He can and will fulfill all the promises He has made.
And then, like Peter, what are the moments in your life where you feel you are casting your net in and coming up empty again and again?
I don’t know all of these moments you may experience either. Perhaps with applying for a job, trying to influence a certain situation or help someone change his or her heart, or trying to overcome a certain challenge or addiction.
For me, although perhaps not the most difficult, but present nonetheless, the immediate thought that came to my mind was with dating. Seriously, the worst fishing trip ever. Cast those nets in and nothing again and again. All night long.
Each situation is different, but for me, when I feel like I’ve been told I should just keep trying, I often respond like Peter’s first comment. Right…so I’ve been doing this a long time and I haven’t gotten anything. Nevertheless. Yes, nevertheless… the Savior says to push out and throw down again. In my situation, I don’t know exactly when or if that moment will come when my “catch” will come in. But I keep casting my nets.
I keep waiting for the night without darkness. And I try to trust in the promises God has made.
Now as we close, I want to move to the “after” of these stories.
In the Book of Mormon, after the sign of light, many hearts were softened. Many believed. But the people still had to wait 33ish years before the actual coming of the Savior. They saw the sign of His birth. The hands of the oppressors were stayed because of the sign. The Savior had come to the world. But he had not yet come to those in the Americas. That would be after His death and resurrection. There would be further signs and challenges ahead for these believers. And ahead of them was also the nights of darkness foretelling the Savior’s death. A dark time for those wondering what the signs of His death meant if He had not yet come to them as He promised. And then…He comes. He heals, He blesses, He calls.
The first night that was filled with light was followed by waiting. But He came.
And we learn from Peter’s experience a remarkable lesson. He cast those nets into the waters and got what he had toiled for all night long. He was astonished. He falls to his knees and tells the Savior that he is a sinful man—perhaps feeling unworthy of the magnitude of the gift given him. Yet this is the moment when the Savior calls him. Christ says “From henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11). In Matthew we read that they “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:20, emphasis added).
When Peter got what he toiled for, he was counseled to leave his work and his ships and his net, and follow Christ as He invited “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4: 19). And he did it right away.
There will be nights of darkness. There will be nights when your nets come up empty. And there will also be nights of light and nets that fill. And then maybe more waiting. Or maybe a call that will forever change the direction of your life.
But the Lord will fulfill all of His promises. I don’t know if the message you need today is one of faith or of hope. Perhaps it a prompting to be more patient or more meek. Or perhaps a call to work harder. Perhaps it is a call to soften your heart to listen to the call of the Savior to try one more time. Or perhaps it is a reminder of the promises that have already been fulfilled in your life and the many more that are to come. Whatever the Spirit has prompted in your heart today, I invite you to take action and believe a little more. Wait another day for the light. Cast your net in one more time. Christ the Lord has come. And through His grace, He will come again and again and again into your life. And one day He will come again to stay. I believe in this promise.