In a world that sends so many false and destructive messages to young men about what it really means to be a man, the scriptures are a powerful source of light and truth, providing stirring examples of what it means to be a man and what the process is of becoming man.
Jesus’ invitations to his disciples include: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27) and “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But what is that process of becoming the type of man that Jesus Christ is?
Again, we can turn to the scriptures for powerful examples.
One of the great scriptural heroes is the prophet Nephi, son of Lehi. He constitutes a great example of what it means to be a man. How did he grow from being a young man to becoming a man of God?
Nephi provides us with two bookends within which we can watch the process and learn the principles of making the transition from a young man to a man. Nephi identifies himself as being exceedingly young (1 Nephi 2:16), and then just two chapters later, Nephi describes himself as a man large in stature, having received much strength from the Lord (1 Nephi 4:31). What happened between 1 Nephi 2:16 and 1 Nephi 4:31 that caused Nephi’s significant transition from being a young man to being a man of God?
Let us explore the episodes that Nephi shared with us and learn the principles that we can apply to our lives so that we can become men — no longer young men, but men of God.
• Pray to gain a personal testimony.
• Share your testimony with others.
• Be willing to do whatever the Lord commands you.
• Have confidence that God will prepare a way for you to accomplish your mission.
• Use the scriptures to build confidence and trust in God.
• Follow the spirit.
Pray to gain a personal testimony.
After Lehi fled Jerusalem with his family at the command of the Lord, he pitched his tent in a valley near a river. There, Lehi exhorted his two oldest sons, Laman and Lemuel, to keep the commandments.
“He spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness! And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!” (1 Nephi 2:9-10).
Nephi explained that his two oldest brothers were unwilling to listen to the voice of God through their prophet-father Lehi. What did Nephi do? Describing himself as being exceedingly young, he decided to put his questions and concerns to God in prayer. He sought his own testimony of the truth.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2:16).
The result? God answered Nephi’s prayer and softened his heart so that Nephi believed the words of his father.
Young men who want to be men should, like Nephi, turn to God in prayer. God will answer your prayers and soften your heart, and in the process of receiving personal revelation from God, you will increase in honor and virtue and become more like God.
Share your testimony with others.
After Nephi received his own testimony, he shared it with others. His older brother Sam willingly listened and believed. But not everyone accepted Nephi’s testimony, particularly Laman and Lemuel. Nephi prayed again to God earnestly, this time not to gain a testimony but on behalf of those whom he loved, desiring that they also would receive a testimony of the truth. In response to Nephi’s desire for others to receive the truth, the Lord promised him marvelous blessings of a promised land and that Nephi would be a teacher to his brothers:
“Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren. For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also. And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:19-24).
Be willing to do whatever the Lord commands you.
After these experiences, Lehi commanded Nephi and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to seek the plates of brass from Laban. In contrast to Laman and Lemuel, who murmured and complained, Nephi immediately responded with faithful obedience.
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7).
Have confidence that God will prepare a way for you to accomplish your mission.
As we know, Laban was entirely unwilling to give the plates of brass to Nephi and his brothers. After Laban rejected Laman, some of Nephi’s brothers wanted to return to Lehi in the wilderness. Nephi instead encouraged them with faith and testimony that God would help them fulfill the mission God had given them. So they went to their land of inheritance to gather together their precious things.
“But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us. Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; therefore let us go down to the land of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 3:15-16).
Unfortunately, Laban threatened their lives, and Nephi and his brothers had to flee, leaving their gold, silver and precious things in the possession of Laban.
Use the scriptures to build confidence and trust in God.
Laman and Lemuel made the situation worse by physically and verbally abusing Sam and Nephi. An angel of the Lord stopped the abuse, but still Laman and Lemuel murmured. Under these terrible circumstances, Nephi quoted scripture, reminding his brothers of the stories from the Old Testament in which God had miraculously saved his people from the mighty Egyptians.
“Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 4:2-3).
If God could save all the Israelites from the Egyptians, couldn’t he save these brothers from one man, even Laban?
Follow the spirit.
Nephi convinced his brothers to let him try again to obtain the plates from Laban. So Nephi went into the city not knowing how he would obtain the plates, only knowing that God had sent him on a mission and that with the spirit he could accomplish all things.
“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6).
As Nephi went by night toward the house of Laban, he discovered Laban drunk in the street. The Spirit urged Nephi to kill Laban. After many long struggles in his own mind and with the Spirit of God, Nephi took Laban’s sword and cut off his head. Soon thereafter, he came upon Zoram, a servant of Laban. He convinced Zoram to give him the plates of brass and to accompany him to his brothers. As soon as Zoram realized that Nephi was impersonating Laban, he tried to flee. But Nephi caught hold of him and held him fast, promising that if he, Zoram, covenanted to come with Nephi and his brothers, he would be a free man. Significantly, Nephi attributed his ability to hold Zoram and convince him with a covenant to not flee to the fact that he had now become a man, having received much strength of the Lord:
“And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord” (1 Nephi 4:31).
Taylor Halverson, who holds doctorates in biblical studies and instructional technology, is a BYU teaching and learning consultant. His website is taylorhalverson.com. His views are his own.