Tuesday, October 22, 2019 1 comments

Stirred up emotions

The Book of Mormon has many instances of using the phrase “stirred up” to describe the process of raising up emotions in order to push individuals or crowds to action. It’s useful to look at these instances to see what we can learn.

Probably most notable of instances of stirring and stirring up is when people are stirred up to anger. 

Some larger principles about stirring to anger
Jesus declares that stirring people up to anger is no part of His doctrine, but declares such things should be done away. (3 Nephi 11:30)
Nephi says those who are part of the devil’s kingdom must be stirred up to repentance, or the devil will stir them up to anger and they’ll perish. (2 Ne. 28:19)
Mormon declares the wicked stir people up to bloodshed. (Mormon 4:5)

Nephi prophesies of how Satan will stir people up to anger against that which is good. (2 Ne. 28:20) We can find many instance of this in the Book of Mormon.

Stirred against good
Laman stirred up Lemuel with suspicions that Nephi lied to them about spiritual experiences in order to usurp power over them. (1 Ne. 16:38)
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
The charity of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites for the poor Zoramites who were cast out stirs up the anger of the elite Zoramites. They mix with the Lamanites and stir them up to anger against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites as well. (Alma 35:10)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to do iniquity continually, spreading rumors and contentions everywhere to harden people’s hearts against goodness and prophecy. (Helaman 16:22)

Instances of Kings/authority figures stirring up the people to anger
King Laman stirs his people up to contend with Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 9:13)
King Laman’s son (now king) begins to stir up his people against Zeniff’s people (Mosiah 10:6)
King Noah accuses Alma of stirring the people to rebellion as a pretext of sending his army against him and his people. (Mosiah 18:33)
Amlici stirs up his followers to anger against those who opposed his bid for kingship. (Alma 2:8)
Amalickiah stirs up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites. (Alma 47:1, Alma 48:3, Alma 51:9) [Captain Moroni knew this would happen far ahead of time. (Alma 46:30)]
Tubaloth (king of the Lamanites) stirs up his people to anger against the Nephites, and they go to battle the Nephites. (Helaman 1:17)
The Nephite chief judges stir up the people to anger against the prophet Nephi when he calls them to repentance. (Helaman 8:7)
Zarahemnah intends to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites to usurp power over them and use them to bring the Nephites to bondage. (Alma 43:8)
After Zarahemna loses his scalp, he stirs up the rest of his soldiers to fight more powerfully. (Alma 44:16)

People stirring up people to anger
The Lamanites are stirred up to anger against the Limhi’s Nephites, and they start coming into the land to harass them. (Mosiah 21:2) (Cause is unstated, but it can’t be an authority figure, otherwise battle would have resulted.)
The Amalekites and Amulonites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. (previous to their attack on Ammonihah) (Alma 24:1)
The Amalekites stir up the Lamanites against the Anti-Nephi-Lehites because they can’t get revenge on the Nephites. (Alma 27:2)
The peoples of Coriantumr and Shiz are stirred up to anger against each other and go to battle. (Ether 15:6)
Dissenters from the Nephites stir the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites (Alma 63:14, Helaman 11:24)
Nephite dissenters try to stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites and don’t succeed. (Helaman 4:3) The next year, they do succeed. (Helaman 4:4)

People stirring up leaders
The priests of Noah stir up the king to anger against Abinadi with charges that Abinadi reviled the king, and King Noah orders Abinadi be slain. (Mosiah 17:12)

Seeing others sorrow & pain stirs to anger
The cries of the widows and orphans stir up the people of Limhi against their Lamanite taskmasters and they go to battle and lose. (Mosiah 21:11)
Amulonites martyring new Lamanite believers stirs up other Lamanites to anger against the Amulonites. (Alma 25:8)

Motives of gain stirring to iniquity
The lawyers of Ammonihah stir up the people to riotings, disturbances, and wickedness in order to have more work and to get gain. (Alma 11:20)
Satan stirs up the Nephites to unite with the bands of robbers and enter secret combinations. (Helaman 6:21)
Satan stirs up the people to do iniquity, puffs them with pride, and tempts them to seek for power, authority, riches, and worldly things. (3 Nephi 6:15)

Can there be good emotional stirrings?  There are some instances in the Book of Mormon of this too.

War meant to stir people to remember God
The Lord tells Nephi that the Lamanites will scourge the Nephites, as a means to stir the Nephites up to remember God. (1 Nephi 2:24)
Elsewhere, the Lord tells Nephi that if the Nephites don’t get stirred up to repentance by the Lamanite scourge, they will be destroyed. (2 Ne. 5:25)
Battle losses stir up the Lamanites to remember the words of Aaron and his brethren and they begin to disbelieve their Lamanite traditions. (Alma 25:6
The depredations of the Gadianton robbers stir up the Nephites to remember the Lord. (Helaman 11:34)

Afflictions and famine can stir to remembrance of God
King Benjamin tells Mosiah of how their fathers were smitten with afflictions to stir them up to remember their duty. (Mosiah 1:17)
The prophet Nephi prays that a famine will be used to stir up the Nephites to repentance. (Helaman 11:4)

Preaching meant to stir us to remember God
Enos tells that the prophets had to stir up the Nephites continually with preaching of war, contention, destruction, reminding them of death, judgment, and the duration of eternity, to fear the Lord. (Enos 1:23)
Jarom tells of the prophets stirring the people up to repentance by pricking their hearts with the word. (Jarom 1:12)
King Benjamin appointed priests to teach the people and stir them up to remember the oath they had made to serve God (Mosiah 6:3)
Alma goes to preach among the people to stir them up to remember their duty. (Alma 4:19)
Captain Moroni says Pahoran should have stirred himself more diligently for the welfare and freedom of the people. (Alma 60:10) He threatens Pahoran that if he doesn’t get reinforcement, he will stir up any remaining spark of freedom into insurrection and fight against those who usurp power and authority. (Alma 60:27)

All of this is particular important to know these days because of the prevalence of incivility and anger out in the world today and attempts to manipulate with stirring strong negative emotions. Not only do we need to work to keep from being affected by it, but we will face the temptation to use it ourselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 0 comments

Some thoughts on Lazarus’ rising from the dead and awkwardness in the sacred

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:43-44)

We often envision this scene with Lazarus walking out of the grave doorway, but the reality was probably a lot weirder.

The text says Lazarus was bound hand and foot, which probably means his feet were wrapped tight together and his hands were wrapped tight to his body. Also his face was covered up. It’s really hard to move under those conditions. (How would you have done it if you were wrapped up tight like a mummy?)

How did he get out? Lazarus probably had to roll and inch around to exit the cave where he’d been put. It probably looked really strange, like an enormous cloth-covered inch worm thrashing around. (It may have even looked a little frightening too.) Jesus had to tell people to loose Lazarus so he could move better.

When we read this story, it reads like a dramatic and spiritual event, but it may have looked strange or silly, or weird, or scary for a small period to those who saw it.

I think this is probably true more often than we realize. We may experience miracles that seem strange, silly, weird, or even scary when we’re going through them, but which sound a lot better in the telling. 

We’re used to slick, carefully-edited media, with nothing incongruous or out of place. We’re used to church videos that deliberately infuse the sacred into the smallest gestures to achieve a polished, shiny view of holiness. And yet, we love amateur videos that show the touch of “awkward” because they are so human and genuine. There’s love and truth there.

Maybe we need to remember that in real life, there is awkward in the sacred, and the sacred in the awkward.  Let’s learn to find gratitude for that in our lives. It can heal tendencies toward perfectionism.
Friday, October 11, 2019 0 comments

Some things I've learned from the Book of Revelation

I'm still working on my book about the Book of Revelation. I finished a draft about two weeks ago (yay!), and yesterday I got feedback about my Introduction in which I try to explain why that book is so important to understand. This test reader found my explanation needed some work. (Doh!)

So of course I went to work trying to improve it.  Eventually I realized I had a tangle of half-articulated reasons.  Which means I had to un-tangle and fully articulate.

 But it just wouldn't come. There was just so many ways that I realized the Book of Revelation can help us.  And as I worked away at it, adding here, moving there, over and over... I discovered a lot of the reasons interlocked with each other and led to more reasons. That made it really hard to tell how to organize my paragraphs.

So I gave up on the writing part for a while and decided to mind-map it out.  I hoped that I could at least begin to see the relationships better than I did before.

Here's what I have so far.  Hopefully you can click on this thing and read my tiny print. :-)

Naturally, not every single bubble will find its way into the particular section I'm working on. But at least I'll be able to see relationships better.

Thursday, October 10, 2019 3 comments

A Story about Taking Something Away

I was reading in Alma 55 recently about the story of the Lamanite guards of the city of Gid who are lulled to sleep with wine provided by Nephite-aligned Lamanites. There was a verse in the story near the beginning that suddenly stuck out to me.  Laman has told the guards about the wine he’s stolen from the Nephites in his daring escape, and the guards get excited to try some.

But Laman said unto them: Let us keep of our wine till we go against the Nephites to battle. But this saying only made them more desirous to drink of the wine; (Alma 55:10)

Since we know what happened in this story, it is pretty obvious to us that the wisest thing for the Lamanite guards to do would be wait.  But for some reason, the guards don’t want to be prudent; they want to indulge themselves. They want it now, not later. This made me think that learning to self-impose deferred gratification is an important skill.

But then I thought about what Laman had done in the story. He showed them the wine, and then he essentially attempts to pull it away. If we have troubles imagining the effect this has, we can substitute cookies or ice cream instead….   Laman showed them the tasty-looking cookies, and then he pulled them away and said, “Let’s keep it until just before battle.”   The Lamanite guards have seen the cookies, they’ve smelled the cookies, they now have cookies on the brain. What Laman has done here is essentially to target-lock the guards’ brains on the cookies. They want the cookies NOW!  If the cookies are taken away, they’re going to get resentful and mad.

Not only has Laman put wine on the guards’ brain, he has gotten them laser-focused on the very thing that will be their undoing. (We know the wine is extra powerful stuff.) As a result of getting drunk, they lose all the prisoners they were supposed to guard, and they lose their own freedom.

So we can see two different spiritual life lessons about strategy here when we look at things from the Lamanite guards’ perspective.

Lesson #1: Train your ability to defer gratification.

Lesson #2: Look out for when something is offered and then pulled away. Realize that this will cause you to fixate on the thing being pulled away. (Try not to do this to others too.) It will take extra work to think about whether it is a good thing to want in the first place.