Toward the middle of the Book of Mormon, we have some books of scripture that are only about one chapter long. Omni is one of those books. Verse two, part of three verses actually penned by Omni, fascinates me:
“Wherefore, in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes of the Lord as I ought to have done.” (Omni 1:2)
To me, this was a man who would be called “good” by anyone who knew him. He was a patriot, and I can guess that he loved his family and tried to do what they needed him to do for them. He was aware of the commandments of God, and at least gave some effort to keeping them. But, as he neared the end of his life, it WASN’T ENOUGH. Instead of feeling the peace of a life well-lived in the service of hid God, Omni was confessing that he was a wicked man. What went wrong?
I doubt that anyone will know the true answer to that question in this lifetime. Omni took it to his grave with him. Today, however, I would like to hazard a few guesses.
- Omni struggled with “minor sins.” He didn’t murder, commit adultery, or steal. But maybe he fibbed a few times in business dealing to get the upper hand. Maybe he didn’t always keep the word of wisdom all of the way. Maybe he justified himself in feeling bitterness toward the Lamanites because of all of the destruction they had caused among his people. I can’t help but think of Elder Uchtdorf’s chilling story of the big deal that a few degrees off course can make.
- It is possible that Omni wasn’t truly wicked, but he had never felt the power of kneeling down and asking Heavenly Father what his standing was before him. I know quite a few people who actually decrease the spiritual power available to them because they feel that they can’t ask for divine help until they have done “all that they can do.” The truth I have found is that we have a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who died and rose from the dead so that they could strengthen us as we do all that we can do – and even make more of our efforts than we can on our own! The scriptures tell us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. (Matthew 6:33 and 3 Nephi 13:33) That’s when the blessings rain down. When we can feel the Holy Spirit guiding us, we are on the right path.
- While it is possible that Omni truly was wicked and ashamed to write on the plates, I doubt it. A truly wicked man wouldn’t have bothered to write or to pass them on.
I think the lesson that I find in this one verse of scripture is to keep an eye to the future. What feels good or looks expedient now may lead to a lot of regret later. On the other hand, making the choice to choose the right way – whether it is easy or hard, and regardless of what personal costs I will pay – will eventually lead to a peace of mind that can be obtained in no other way.