Monday, April 9, 2018

She did steal away the hearts of many

  Here are Alma’s words to his son Corianton to rebuke him for immorality:

3 And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.
4 Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted. (Alma 39:3-4)

These are not pleasant verses to think about, but there is something important that I wanted to point out that I noticed recently. It stuck me as particularly curious that Alma says of Isabel, “she did steal away the hearts of many.”

Our idea of a harlot is someone who exchanges sex for money, but there is something odd about this harlot, as described by Alma. He says she stole many hearts. Prostitution doesn’t seem like the kind of thing where hearts are stolen; it seems like it would be more of a non-committal thing, not engaging the heart.  So, there are three possible conclusions from this— either 1) prostitution steals hearts men never expected to give away, or 2) Isabel was a different type of harlot than we usually think of, one unique to that culture and its surrounding areas, or 3) Isabel took things much further than usual and created a one-sided emotional intimacy, stealing the hearts of many, but never giving her own.

“Stealing away the hearts of many”—there’s a cold-bloodedness in that which is scary. Like the theft was calculated and targeted. It’s dishonest, since the hearts she stole were not free to be given. That means her machinations broke up homes and ultimately caused misery wherever she went. If she was doing it to amuse herself, stealing only one heart didn’t satisfy her; she kept going, stealing more and more.  It’s also probable that she was emotionally needy and/or had been abused and was trying to collect all those hearts to make up for a lack of love in her childhood.

Whatever the reason Isabel stole hearts, it made her dangerous. But she probably didn’t look dangerous at all.  She probably was beautiful and very charming. But that was what drew men in.

Alma said Corianton had forsaken the ministry and gone after Isabel into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites. I doubt Corianton would have gone off after some woman he only met once. There’s a relationship implied here. Perhaps Corianton tried to help Isabel and Isabel was just toying with him, and he deceived himself that he was just concerned about her until carnal desire took over. Then, by the time she left, he was in so deep that he felt like he couldn’t just let her go.

Another observation I have is that Satan used Isabel to distract Corianton from the ministry. The work of saving souls can be hard and thankless. There can be a lot of rejection involved. Love, or the appearance of it, can be very tempting to one who has suffered a lot of rejection. So can freely-given respect and admiration.  Alma notes in some earlier verses that Corianton had boasted in his own strength; Corianton probably felt deprived of respect and was trying to meet his own emotional needs.

Going back to Alma’s observation that Isabel stole away the hearts of many, it is interesting to ponder how Alma knew she had done this. Maybe Alma had to hear confessions from men who had sinned with Isabel. Maybe he himself was targeted and he resisted. At any rate, Alma knew Isabel had wide appeal, and he finished his observation with “but this was no excuse for thee, my son.” Corianton’s sin was understandable, but not excusable. He had a ministry to tend to, and he had neglected it.

How can knowing this help us today? 

First, there are people who want to steal hearts. Not just women, but men also. There are pick-up artists who hone their interpersonal skills and their approach with the goal of hooking people with charm and flirtation for their own gratification, and they sell instruction on how to do this. They may not be put off by finding out their target is married. Sooner or later, any of us may find ourselves in their cross-hairs.

Second, we may come in contact with others who have such an emotional need for love that they will try to get it anyway they can, even by stealing hearts. It is important to remember to keep proper emotional boundaries.  Be cautious and protect yourself. Remember your covenants.