Do you realize from the time Nephi first began to develop real saving faith, until he received the second comforter, no more than eight years had come and gone? I point this out not to create undue expectations or to suggest Nephi's timeline is to be any other person's timeline for developing sufficient faith to stand in the presence of the Lord. However, if we are wise, we will look at Nephi's experience and glean what we can from it because he is one of the foremost-recorded examples of one who has "been so blessed."
"To receive the second comforter we must allow others who have been so blessed to serve as our guides. Their instructions and testimony need to be accepted and followed." (Second Comforter pg. 15)
The Second Comforter Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil identifies a pivotal moment at which Nephi began to develop the faith that would lead him ultimately to the presence of the Lord. Of course, faith needed to grow and increase over the course of time in order for Nephi to be adequately prepared for the presence of the Lord. But faith has to begin somewhere for all of us. For Nephi, real faith began shortly after his family departed their home in the land of Jerusalem to begin a journey, the end of which, no one in the family at the time could anticipate or know.
After only three days of travel away from Jerusalem, the family stopped by the side of a river, an alter was built, an offering was made to the Lord, (1Nephi 2: 6-7) and the murmuring began. (1Nephi 2: 11-13) Nephi describes himself at the time of the family's departure and the set up of this first tent camp by the side of a river as, "exceedingly young," "large in stature," and "having great desires to know of the mysteries of God." (1Nephi 2: 16) It took only three days of travel, and some of the family had already begun to complain and murmur against their father leader. Nephi might have so easily begun to complain also. The comforts of home were only three days away and were probably sounding pretty good to everyone in the family after three days of hard travel. Nephi was not exempt from the draw of creature comforts. It no doubt crossed his mind to be ill at ease like others in the family. Instead, as pointed out in The Second Comforter, Nephi turned his self-proclaimed, "desire" into something more.
Nephi's record says, "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;" (1Nephi 2: 16)
The Second Comforter states:
"This short verse contains a succinct statement of how the path to a fullness of the gospel begins." (Second Comforter pg. 65) If this is so, then this statement by Nephi ought to be pulled apart and examined very closely. Remember, in something less than eight years from the time of this statement by Nephi, he will stand in the presence of the Lord, which is the "fullness of the gospel." You, (my children especially,) will need to begin somewhere just as Nephi did. In view of the fact that the process of increasing faith is really nothing more than repeating the same steps over and over again as faith increases, we all should learn well the lesson of this seemingly simple verse of scripture. For my part, I tend to forget all too often. If we were more purposeful in our efforts to develop faith, we might also more quickly find the presence of the Lord.
Beginning on the path, or taking the next step along the path, wherever you are, requires nothing more than "desire." Alma said, "even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe..." (Alma 32: 27) Look closely at Nephi's statement about himself; all he had to start with was "great desires to know the mysteries of God..." I want to drive the point again so we are clear, within eight years of his proclaimed "desire," Nephi stood face to face with God.
Desire and belief may be turned into faith or they may simply remain as they are, in which case, we will remain where we are on the path, or off the path as our individual case may be. In order for faith to develop for us, just as it was for Nephi, some kind of action is required. Action, or doing something because of the desire we feel is what turns desire and belief into faith. This principle is true regardless where we are on the path. One may have their calling and election made sure, then stagnate on the path at some point because the next level of desire and belief are not acted upon in order to increase faith and move along. Nephi might never have done anything despite feeling a "great desire." If he had done that, (nothing that is), his desire would never have become anything more than what it was, desire.
Nephi acted. He "did cry unto the Lord." As a result, the Lord "visited" him. (1Nephi 2: 16) This "visit" by the Lord was perhaps no more than the conversational kind of discussion with the spirit of the Lord the author of The Second Comforter spoke about:
"After two hours of raising questions and considering answers alone in the barracks, I reached this final question: "But how do I know there even is a God? After all, there may not even be a God, and life may not have any real meaning." In response to which came this final thought:
Who do you think you have been talking with these last two hours?
It was that last thought which alarmed me. Had I really been in a conversation with God?...Perhaps this was what it meant to talk with God." (The Second Comforter pg. 62-63)
Nephi, in being "visited" by the Lord experienced nothing more than a "softening of his heart" that allowed him to believe "all the words which had been spoken by" his father. Wherefore Nephi "did not rebel against his father" like his brothers had begun to do. (1Nephi 2: 16)
The importance of the element of faith developed in Nephi from this simple experience is illustrated when, just before receiving the second comforter some eight years later, the spirit of the Lord asks Nephi,
"Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken? And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father." (1Nephi 11: 4-5) The spirit then declares to Nephi, "thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired." (1Nephi 11: 6) Again, it was “desire” that led Nephi to the final step of faith across the threshold into the presence of the Lord where faith was replaced with knowledge.
The beginnings of Nephi's faith started with nothing more than him acting on a desire that brought a "visit" from the Lord. That visit resulted in a softened heart that allowed Nephi to believe his fathers words. Some eight years later, it would be Nephi's declaration to the spirit of the Lord that he "believed all the words of his father" that would allow the veil to part and Nephi to receive the second comforter. Nephi had learned and practiced the lesson we too must learn if we "desire" to come into the presence of the Lord.
We should practice the process of building faith by desire, action, and resulting evidence. We ought to experiment upon it. It should become second nature in us.