Faith and Anxiety?
Posted by robf on September 2, 2011
I’m puzzled by a line in Jacob 1:5, where we are told that Nephi and Jacob had received revelations “concerning our people, what things should happen unto them” and that these revelations had come “because of faith and great anxiety.” What role did anxiety play in the receipt of this revelation in particular, and what is the spiritual role of anxiety in general?
I’m presuming that this revelation of what would happen to Nephi’s people is a reference to the vision Nephi recorded in 1 Nephi 12-14. We are quick to see how this vision was the result of Nephi’s faith, but in what sense might it also reflect or be seen as a result of his anxiety? And if this vision was partly the result of anxiety (cf. claims of teachings based on a “frenzied mind” in Alma 30:16), what does that tell us about the source and nature of this revelation?
We often speak of fear and faith as being incommensurate. If that is so, how are we to read this account of Nephi (and Jacob’s) revelations and motives? To the extent that they are the result of anxiety or fear, to what extent can they transcend that fear, or do they remain bound by fear and become self-reinforcing and self-fulfilling prophecies?
If Nephi’s vision, and the whole resulting project of preaching and recording spiritual teachings is motivated by anxiety, what does that tell us about the nature of the project? Of its continuation through 1,000 years of history, or even in the transmission and translation of the plates in our day and subsequent gospel restoration? Is there a proper role for anxiety, or is anxiety itself the problem to be overcome? To what extent might anxiety be a betrayal of faith?
There is a lot here to ponder that seems to get to the core of our concerns relating to our individual spirituality, as well as the whole Nephi-inspired project of record-keeping, the history of that project, and the history of the Restoration.