5 And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.
6 Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
7 And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.
(2 Nephi 5:5-7)
The Book of Mormon opens with Lehi praying for and preaching to his friends and neighbors in Jerusalem, and then ultimately leaving the city with his family to camp in tents. Now, thirty years later, Nephi makes a similar decision. After pleading with his brothers and praying for them, he recognizes that the relationship is not going to improve. Facing threats on his life, he travels into the wilderness for many days with all of the family members who will go with him.
For the rest of the chapter, Nephi talks about the establishment of a new home. They build buildings including a temple, plant crops, raise livestock, worship together, and prepare for the future. Above all, he tells us, they “lived after the manner of happiness.”
I’m not surprised that Nephi considered his new life to be happy. While he still lived near his brothers, he must have been miserable. They complained about being “afflicted…because of his words” (2 Nephi 5:3), and they continually threatened to kill him. He tells us in the prior chapter that he felt guilty because he became angry with them (2 Nephi 4:27, 29). It must have been a relief to get away from so much contention.
But I also think a source of Nephi’s happiness is suggested by a phrase in the passage above: “We did take our tents and whatsover things were possible for us…” He and his father had enjoyed many spiritual experiences while living in tents in the wilderness. Now, he’s going back to the basics, taking only the essentials, and building a life around activities that are important and that bring joy into his life.
As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has counseled us:
If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.
Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace (“Of Things That Matter Most,” General Conference, October 2010).
Today, I will refocus and simplify my life. Just as Nephi found joy when his life became simpler, I will look for ways to reduce the complexity and the intensity of my life and spend my time and energy on the things that matter most.