11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the strength of men.As I was reading this, I found myself puzzled as to how the Lamanites could be a strong people without knowing anything about the Lord or the strength of the Lord. When you have a testimony of the strength that comes from the Lord, it is hard to see how someone can be strong any other way.
12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people…(Mosiah 10:11-12)
But it becomes easier to see when you examine the implications of not knowing anything about the Lord. If you think there is no higher power to depend on, then everything depends on you, how strong you are, how smart you are, how rich you are, how capable you are, how much you know… If you can only depend on yourself, then the only way you can get anywhere in this world is by being stronger, faster, smarter, richer, more knowledgeable, and more ruthless than the next guy. Why? So you can gain control over your life and what happens to you. So you can get what you want. (It’s easy to see this attitude today, isn’t it?)
And what is the result in a society in which everyone is jockeying to be the strongest, fastest, smartest, richest, most ruthless, most dangerous, and most in control? Things get taken to incredible extremes. “They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people.”
The trouble with this way of thinking is life has a way of showing us all that we aren’t totally in control, that we don’t have everything figured out, that we arent’ the richest, that our plans can come to naught, and we aren’t strong enough to do everything on our own. There are times when life just plain kicks our tail, kicks it good and hard, and kicks it for months at a time. Or maybe years. NO ONE IS IMMUNE TO IT, NOT EVEN THE STRONGEST.
What does a Lamanite do when everything depends on their own strength and life’s yogurt suddenly hits the hurricane fan? Lamanites dealt with it by getting angry and blaming. They fed off their anger.
…believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;Notice how many times “wronged” was used in those verses. Anger was the only way they could deal with disappointments and setbacks and tragedies because everything depended on them and everything depended on being strong. Any kind of weakness was dangerous; if they showed weakness or admitted weakness to anyone then everyone would take advantage of them. They couldn’t even develop the virtues of patience, long-suffering, meekness, kindness, humility, or forgiveness, lest they be mistaken for weakness and invite oppression. (I have it on good authority that it is like this in prison.) They couldn’t help others, lest it give someone an advantage and create a dangerous rival later.
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord (Mosiah 10:12-13, emphasis added)
So they were forced to be wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty. No other behavior or attitude would survive. And no other way would even seem possible.
But what happens when you know that you can depend on the Lord? If you know that, it is to your advantage to realize and admit your weakness as soon as possible and ask for help. Admitting weakness isn’t dangerous; it is part of showing that you know the Lord’s strength and trust in Him. It shows that you are ready for help, whether it comes from God directly or from other people. It doesn’t mean you’re not trying, it just means you know when you’ve hit your limits, and you realize your needs are greater than your strength. Also, when you trust in God, you are excited to help others because it means you get to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and partake of the Lord’s strength in so doing. You realize that your talents and strengths are gifts and blessings from God. (Even frequent opportunities to practice a skill to develop a talent is a gift from God.)
To someone who knows nothing of the Lord or the strength of the Lord, people who depend on the Lord’s strength seem very weak because of how much they admit weakness. Belief and trust in God seem like a crutch. But it’s not. It is the key to obtain greater strength.
There are people who cope with tragedies, setbacks, and chronic problems by saying everything is fine and nothing is wrong. "I don't have an addiction." "My marriage is fine." "Nothing is wrong with my health/my child's health/my spouse's health/my parents' health." "I've done nothing wrong." "My financial affairs are just fine." "I get along with people just fine." Yet denying one's weaknesses doesn’t mean they go away; if anything it hides them. Like a tree with a wedge buried deeper and deeper in the wood, hiding weaknesses from yourself makes you even weaker. When the storm comes, trees with wedges deep in them break.
When you trust in the Lord as the one with the power, it doesn’t mean the storms never come or that pain is avoided. But it frees you from feeling there is something terribly wrong with you for feeling weak, inadequate, and devastated by life’s tragedies and troubles. You are free to admit that you can only do so much. You are free to admit your weaknesses, sins, and mistakes for them to be healed. You are free to develop the more refined virtues. You are free to ask for help.
Really. Trusting God is just a better way.