Thursday, October 10, 2019

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.


Rozy Lass said...

Great analysis! Thanks for sharing. I think the "war chapters" are my favorite because of all the interesting tidbits and treasures contained in them.

M Stephens said...

They're certainly interesting, that's for sure!
Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you! I was having trouble understanding why Laman was (or pretended to be) hesitant when giving the Lamanites his wine. Now it makes much more sense!