Lack of Vision: An Impediment to Overcoming Adversity (1 Nephi 17:17-21)

“And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.

And thus my brethren did complain against me, and were desirous that they might not labor, for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord.

And now it came to pass that I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts; and now when they saw that I began to be sorrowful they were glad in their hearts, insomuch that they did rejoice over me, saying: We knew that ye could not construct a ship, for we knew that ye were lacking in judgment; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work.

And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.” – 1 Nephi 17:17-21

Laman and Lemuel lack vision. They have no vision! They are too prideful to see what is possible. What a setback! This is can be a problem for anyone, actually.

In our world, it is a little bit more…acceptable…to be cynical. The world is full of cynics who complain and criticize nearly everything. No vision.

Laman and Lemuel, when Nephi is commanded to make a boat, criticize him. They recount their troubles to Nephi and then compare their troubles in the wilderness with a romanticized fantasy of what their lives would be like in Jerusalem.

Laman and Lemuel claim that they could have been in Jerusalem and enjoying their possessions. It’s kind of a silly thing to say. They wouldn’t have enjoyed their possessions. Their father’s life was already in danger. I’m sure that some of the hatred that the Jews had for Lehi could have easily transferred to a hatred for Laman and Lemuel.

Not only that, but Jerusalem was on the verge of destruction. Its destruction was so severe, they would have been lucky to die. People in Jerusalem lost all they had, starved, and experienced horrors described by Jeremiah in Lamentations.

Yet, Laman and Lemuel persist in their fantasy-mindset. And so they remain angry.

This mindset is persistent still. I’ve seen it in my own life – even with friends. Instead of living in the present moment, we compare our current troubles with a romantic and pernicious lie. This silly mindset will blind us and make us incapable of any achievement or success. And then we will find ourselves, like Laman and Lemuel, without any vision.

Faith, Joy, Iniquity, and Despair (Moroni 10:22 and 9:25)

I’m going a little bit out of order, but it works…

In Moroni 10, we read:

“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” – Moroni 10:22

This is kind of depressing. I mean, who likes thinking about despair. No one. BUT, we still need to think about it! How else can we protect ourselves against this if we don’t study it and understand how it can come into our lives???

Here, we learn that a lack of hope leads to despair. And despair comes because of iniquity.

I want to be careful as I write this. I know that there are other reasons people feel hopeless. I know that despair can come of depression and other chemical problems in the body. So, I don’t want to seem insensitive. I don’t think that despair only comes through iniquity.

However, iniquity will only ever result in despair. There is no other consequence of iniquity.

Additionally, I have experienced despair in my life. I have seen a therapist during a particularly dark time in my life. I learned to look at my own life with a sort of detachment – to look at the facts of the events in my life, rather than the emotion that was laced with those facts. And I learned how to change what I was doing (that was unhealthy), so that I could pull myself up out of despair and into hope.

I had despair, but mine was not a chemical issue. My doctor would have prescribed medication. Medications, however, are riddled with side-effects, and there is more than one way to “skin a cat.”

Since then, I have learned to apply the same techniques. This is where meditation comes in handy. And when I’m experiencing hopelessness or despair, often the Lord will teach me how I can change. I may not be out robbing banks, doing drugs, or prostituting myself – I’m not iniquitous, but there is a disconnect between me and the Spirit of God. And the connection is the same no matter how great or small the sin.

We learn in the chapter before:

“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” – Moroni 9:25

It is through Christ that we can be lifted up. Sometimes we are best able to access Christ and His atonement through therapeutic practices. When I saw my doctor, she explained that the practices and “homework” she was giving me – processing the experiences I had in my life that caused trauma and bad patterns – would help to liberate me so that the Atonement could have an effect in my life.

In other words – therapy was a blessing of the Atonement. Christ suffered and has given men and women the wisdom to help each other! Going to therapy was a gift of Christ’s suffering. The gifts of the Atonement don’t only come through abstract prayer sessions. (Of course, I believe prayer is important!) Sometimes the answers to these prayers come through other, more practical forms of work.

In any case – the result is the same. When we are able to access the power of the atonement (whether it is during our prayers, with the assistance of a therapist, or with the assistance of medications), once we can access that power, our souls are filled with hope of His glory. We begin to feel the promise of the joy of rest.

Anyway – there is so much more I could write about this. I can’t even begin to pretend that this blog post is the beginning and end of this subject. But I hope that it scratched a surface for you. If you are feeling despair, think of how you might be disconnected from God and Christ. Perhaps your despair is caused by your own sin. Perhaps this despair is caused by the sin of another. Maybe your despair is caused by the malfunction of a mortal body or brain. Any of these scenarios can be healed through the Atonement of Christ. Pray to the Lord in Christ’s name. Listen to the advice he gives you. Maybe you’ll be guided to read a scripture. Maybe you’ll find you need to repent and change. Maybe your’e answer will come as a prompting to get more professional help for scars and wounds that need more than a proverbial band-aid and antibiotic cream.

No matter what, I know that the Lord will help us.

I know this because I know that the Lord wants us to have joy. He promises us joy, peace, and rest. He wants us to experience all of His greatest blessings. Best of all, He doesn’t expect us to be able to have any of these blessings without His help

The Joy of Hope

This is just one of my favorite scriptures.

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

This scripture brings me joy.

This scripture was given to us by Ether, but recorded for us by Moroni. Moroni- who had just witnessed the complete extinction of a civilization – his civilization. AND he had just abridged the records of another civilization that went extinct based on their wicked choices.

Ether also witnessed the destruction of his civilization.

These men witnessed an event that most of us will never really see – and yet they tell us – during such hopeless times that if we believe in God, we can have hope.

A belief in God gives us hope for a better world (which means a lot when you just witnessed the end of your civilization!). This hope for a better world anchors our soul to Christ. We understand that He is the author of such a world. Then, our hearts are turned to Him and filled with His love. We do good works for others because of the Love of God that we have obtained.

Is this not joyful?!

It’s possible to have joy in any circumstance when we have the perspective and hope of God.

Don’t Blame Religion (Alma 4:8-9)

Soon, if you read this blog enough, I suppose you’ll find some of my pet peeves. I’ll let you in on one, right now. It’s actually kind of a dual pet-peeve.

Pet Peeves

  1. When people blame evil on “religion”
  2. When supposedly religious people, through their hypocritical actions, give others the excuse to do so.

Caveat

No one is perfect. There is a difference between imperfection and hypocrisy. I hope that the rest of this blog post will reflect that difference.

Corruption of Religion

In Alma 4, we learn about the conditions of the church (religion) in Zarahemla:

“For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.

And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.” – Alma 4:8-9

Here is a description of some of the people in the church at the time:

  • Lifted up in pride
  • set their heart upon riches and the vain things of the world
  • scornful to others
  • persecuted those who didn’t believe as they did
  • contentious
  • envious
  • strife
  • malice

This is not the description of a joyful people! Therefore, what followed were not joyful circumstances. Additionally, the bad behavior of the supposed religious resulted in more problems. We read:

“And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.” – Alma 4:10

The people who had covenanted to be Christ’s people instead corrupted His gospel.

I can see why the Savior had such a problem with people who were hypocrites. Just because they called themselves religious didn’t make them so. Just because they called themselves covenant people, didn’t qualify them for the covenants that they were breaking.

What ensues is a contentious, harmful environment. And those who are being hurt blame the church. Of course, the church isn’t the problem. The problem comes from the corruption of the people. This is especially sad because the true gospel is should bring healing balm, peace, and love to society – exactly what the society during Alma’s time needed.

I think that this is needed now, too. There are so many people who do wickedly under the guise of their own religion. As a believer of Christ, it really hurts me. This isn’t why Christ suffered and died. He came to bring peace, not to justify and promote pride and persecution. When we commit to leading Christlike lives, we can help to change the sad perception that religion is a source of pain into it being the source of healing and peace.