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Shifting the “Because”: Overcoming the Victim Mentality

In 2 Nephi 4, commonly referred to as “Nephi’s psalm,” there is an interesting pattern and reversal that centers around the word “because.” First, here is the list of things Nephi uses to justify his sorrows:

  1. my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;
  2. my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
  3. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins
  4. my heart groaneth because of my sins

Nephi appears to be placing the blame on external influences for how he feels. He sees himself as a victim of these influences and in so doing, allows them to have power over him. Then we see a change in focus as he begins to question his own perspective. Nephi then begins to recall all of the amazing things that God has done for him in his life. This new focus prompts several “why should” questions in regards to those “because of” justifications.

  1. why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
  2. why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
  3. Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?
  4. Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Nephi isn’t getting an answer to prayer here, he isn’t doing anything spectacular, he is simply thinking. He is revolving these issues in his mind and weighing them. In this process, he finds the power to shift his perspective and reorient his trajectory. Fortified with a renewed resolve, Nephi drops some firm covenantal “do nots” in opposition to those “because of” justifications.

  1. Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
  2. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Then, the final “because” comes into play:

“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (vs.32)

Nephi concludes that when you trust the arm of flesh, whether it is your own or that of others, you will experience failure and even tragedy. Nephi doesn’t mince words and straight up calls it a curse when you put your trust in fallible beings. Nephi realizes that even though he fails himself by giving in to sin, and others fail him by becoming his enemy, God has never failed him and never will.

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (vs.34)

Through this, Nephi escapes his mental prison of victimhood and realizes the power that comes from faith in God. He will still sin, and he may never make peace with his enemies but God will always walk beside him. One will never find true peace in this world, not really, not lasting and fulfilling peace. When we put our trust in God and allow him to prove himself to us, we will find that peace that we seek.

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The Space Between the Rod and the Tree

I was reading Elder Uchtdorf’s Three Sisters talk from this past General Conference and something he said prompted me to look at Lehi’s vision again. I went looking for a particular verse that illustrated the moment the people went from holding the rod to grasping the fruit of the tree.

“…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30)

Notice that the iron rod in this vision has a beginning and an end. I don’t think that means that God’s word has a beginning or an end so why use this as a metaphor? There could be many reasons, but I’ll focus on what comes to my mind.

First, consider what hands represent.Read Full Post

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Fasting: Cover Your Mouth

I had a moment of insight a few days ago with a friend of mine that was and is going through some hard times. He was telling me about a fast he was engaged in and several experiences where he had run his mouth in a manner that had caused a great deal of contention and conflict.

I couldn’t believe that he would say such things and then act somewhat surprised when people retaliated against him. I told my friend that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) I then asked my friend if he knew what the word “fast” meant in Hebrew and he said that he did not. The word is tsuwm, and it means “to cover over (the mouth).” (Strongs)

When you fast your mouth is “covered” in the sense that you are restricting whatRead Full Post

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I Avoid Eating Meat, but I’m Not a Vegan or Vegetarian

I could have subtitled this post “and other ways I frustrate the people around me.” Haha, but seriously…

If you have ever been around me, you may have observed that I avoid eating meat or hunting (even though I was on a dove hunt with family recently, sans a firearm). It isn’t always that obvious because I try not to make a big deal about it. I try to apply principles to my own circumstances and allow others the liberty to do the same. Sometimes people ask me if I am a vegetarian or a vegan and my response is usually something like, “I try to avoid meat if I don’t need it” and leave it at that.

It’s true that I probably resemble a vegetarian or vegan in many respects and embrace many of their ideas, but these ideologies do not encompass the revelations of the Lord.

The flaw of Veganism is that it forbids the use of animal flesh or products under any circumstance. While I sympathize with the compassion and enjoy the delicious meals that have arisen out of a desire to avoid the use of animal flesh, whoever forbids Read Full Post

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Bricolage and Eclecticism

There was a conference that went on recently that my brother-in-law brought back to my attention called New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation (His in-law are co-founders of FaithMatters.org). I was interested to hear what this panel of speakers had to say and compare it with an enjoyable MormonMatters podcast I listened to a couple of years back. If you are interested in theories about the mechanics of Joseph Smith’s translation process, these are intriguing resources.

Terryl Givens was a featured speaker at the New Perspectives conference, and I found his association of bricolage with the translation process to be intriguing. Bricolage is a French term that describes the construction of ideas by using whatever is at hand. (Merriam-Webster) In the past, Givens has regarding Joseph Smith being an “inspired eclecticist” and a “sponge.” (An Approach to Thoughtful, Honest and Faithful Mormonism) An eclectic will select “what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles” or will compose from “elements drawn from various sources; (Merriam-Webster)

The Book of Mormon came down to us with a mix of voices. Most notably we seeRead Full Post

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God’s Justice as Taught by the Book of Mormon, Qur’an, and Joseph Smith

These quotes have been sitting in my notebook for a while and a recent conversation with a friend brought them back to my attention. What I find remarkable is how nicely they fit together and convey this idea that all people on earth have been given a portion of God’s light and truth. The Qur’an and Joseph quotes talk about a reconciliation in the afterlife when more will be revealed as to how this all works. Personally, I find these teachings bring great peace of mind and understanding when pondered. I have found tremendous insights from other faith traditions around the world that have brought me closer to God and my fellow man. Read Full Post

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The Symbiosis of Faith and Hope

In Neal A. Maxwell’s 1984 general conference talk Brightness of Hope he said the following:

“In the geometry of restored theology, hope has a greater circumference than faith. If faith increases, the perimeter of hope stretches correspondingly.”

Elder Maxwell points out that as faith increases, so also does hope. Hope is an interesting thing, I have come to define it as: “everything that dwells within the sphere of what you actually believe is possible.” Faith is your hand pushing a flashlight out into the darkness and everything within the beam of light represents hope. Faith fuels hope which in turn, leads faith.

If we point the flashlight down toward our feet, the circle of light shrinks and the darkness crowds us in. Faith and hope either grow together or they wither together. If you don’t believe that something is possible, then you will not hope for it and you will not move to attain it.

When the idea of something crosses our mind, we have the ability to desire it and begin to think about how we might achieve the object of our desires. We begin to Read Full Post

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I’ve Had a Change of Heart and I’m Stepping Away

By now, I’m sure most are familiar with the recent shooting in Las Vegas. This one hit close to home because I just moved back to Texas from Las Vegas after living there for 9 years. A friend of my sister-in-law was shot twice in at that concert yesterday.

What disturbed me more than this event was how I felt about it. I lacked a deep and profound horror at the senseless loss of life; I thought, “Here we go again with another shooting.” As I reflected on my feelings or lack thereof, I felt that I had become desensitized to these violent acts. Three things came to mind that solidified into a firm resolve, and I’d like to share my thoughts.Read Full Post

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The Three Duties of the Gentiles

At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith offered a prayer he received by revelation, “Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.” (D&C 109:60) The Latter-day Saints are identified with the Gentiles.

In order for the Gentiles to be saved the must do three things:

  1. Repent
  2. Fight not against Zion
  3. Do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church.

“…for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.” – 2 Nephi 6:12

Repent

“The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is not optional for salvation; it is a commandment of God…” LDS Bible Dictionary

Q: How do we as Latter-day Saints unintentionally miss out on true repentance?Read Full Post

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The Mother, the Dove, Mercy, and the Holy Spirit

For the past couple of years, I’ve been coming across fascinating tidbits of information that appear to show connections between the Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Mother. During a recent morning family scripture study in 1 Nephi 11, I noticed a couple of interesting things and I’ll share some of the details.

In verse 16, the angel asks Nephi “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” When Nephi appears not to know the answer, (vs.17) the angel shows him this beautiful, fair virgin again and reveals that she is “the mother of the Son of God” (vs.18) and she is shown with a child in her arms. (vs.20) The angel tells Nephi that this child is “the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father” (vs.21)

The angel then asks Nephi another question: “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (vs.21) Nephi answers knowingly that the tree “is the love of God.” (vs.22) Nephi then sees many people worship Jesus and explains his understanding of the iron rod and the fountain of water. (vs.24-25)

Now that Nephi understands the meaning of the tree the angel says “Look and behold the condescension of God!” (vs.23) It is at this point that the angel shows Nephi key events in the life of Jesus from his baptism to his crucifixion. What I want to focus on what I believe are parallel elements that follow the two verses that mention the phrase “the condescension of God.”

There is a distinct mother and son presence in these verses, and it isn’t quite apparent at first. We see the Spirit mentioned in direct conjunction with a birth and a rebirth account as well; these things are significant so take note!Read Full Post

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The Lost in Nephi’s Vision

“And I also beheld… a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree…” (1 Nephi 8:21)

It seems like this represents everyone in the world all searching for “the path” the truth and the meaning of life, a connection with the divine. Nobody begins on the path, they must search for it.

“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” (vs.22-23)

One group of people that found that path went forward and followed it, but thenRead Full Post

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Why the Sons of Helaman Could Not Be Killed via IsaiahInstitute.com

The following is from the Isaiah Institute site and was written by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D. Here is a link to the original and I encourage oneClimbs readers to leave comments for Bro. Gileadi there as well if they feel so inclined.

Copyright Clark Kelly Price

What was it the Lamanite mothers “knew” that convinced them to entrust their young sons to Helaman to lead them in battle against a ferocious enemy that far outnumbered them? Helaman said of them, “They never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:47–48).

Some background to these youths’ firmness of mind may explain the fearlessness their mothers had instilled in their sons: Traditionally, the Lamanites followed the emperor–vassal system of government that had prevailed throughout the ancient Near East. In brief, an emperor such as King Laman or an heir of Laman, the eldest son, ruled over a number of vassal kings and their city-states in his empire. As in the Hittite, Israelite, Assyrian, and Babylonian empires, the emperor was called the “father” of his vassal kings, and they were called his “sons.”

We see an example of this in King Lamoni’s relationship to his “father,” the Lamanite emperor at that time, “who was king over all the land” (Alma 18:9). Although Lamoni was called his “son,” vassal kings were Read Full Post

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Behind the Beheading: A Case for Scriptural Knowledge

In 1 Nephi chapter 4 right at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we encounter a narrative where a young man is instructed by God to kill an unconscious individual.

I have to admit, on the surface, this is not a very appealing idea to entertain. I would like to share some insights to this account in hopes that it can offer some reasons as to why this happened the way that it did and what Nephi’s motivations may have been.Read Full Post

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Certainty and Actual Knowledge

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him. (Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is Within You)

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:28-29)

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:29-30)

There is a school of thought out there that I have come across that frowns uponRead Full Post

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The Way is Prepared

“Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.” – Alma 41:8

Alma said these words to a struggling son named Corianton who had committed some serious sins. There are three important principles outlined in this sentence that go along with some other observations I have made in recent weeks.

  1. God’s decrees cannot be altered.
  2. The way is prepared.
  3. Whoever walks in the way will be saved.

To some, the idea of God being unchangeable may sound constricting and limiting. But imagine how frustrating it would be if you were trying to design an airplane and the laws of physics just kept changing on you continually. Imagine trying to bake a cake when all of a sudden it required cold to cook instead of heat. Imagine if electricity all of a sudden worked like water and water like electricity.Read Full Post

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Male and Female Make One

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, […] all things must needs be a compound in one…” (2 Nephi 2:11)

There is a binary aspect to everything in God’s work; light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and earth, male and female, etc. As I read the end of Genesis ch. 2 this morning, these things came to mind again.

The Hebrew word for covenant briyth (ber-eeth) means to cut, and then we have this word “cleave,” a single word that has two opposing meanings: “To part or divide by force” or “To unite or be united closely in interest or affection.” It is a bit paradoxical, but I think there is a pattern of interest concerning dividing and uniting things.Read Full Post

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7 Years and 455 posts!

I always forget that July 1st is the official year mark, but another year has gone by and the blog is up to 455 posts! When I think of everything I’ve studied and learned up to this point, I eagerly await what the future will unfold.

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Statements on Animal Life From LDS Leaders and Publications

The following is a master list of references that I have collected over the years that I will continue to expand to as necessary. Several years ago I wrote a blog post on the Word of Wisdom that was the result of several months of research and many of these quotes were discovered then. There was an event in my life, well, a series of events but one in particular that prompted me to seek a greater understanding of animal life as it pertains to the Word of Wisdom and in the context of the gospel.

I’m posting these references here with as much context that I feel is appropriate for my own personal use and if anyone else out there finds value in these teachings. If you find any additional quotes that you think might be worth adding to this list, post them in the comments section.Read Full Post

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Lehi Likes the Fruit, Nephi Likes the Tree

In Lehi’s vision, there are 18 references to the fruit of the tree of life with only 9 references to the tree itself. (1 Nephi 8)

In Nephi’s vision, there is a larger focus on the tree of life with 9 references to the tree and only 1 reference to the fruit. (1 Nephi 11) When Nephi is explaining the vision to his brothers, he mentions the tree 5 times and the fruit 2 times. (1 Nephi 15) That would make a total of 14 references to the tree and 3 references to the fruit by Nephi in the context of his vision.

Lehi > fruit: 18, tree: 9
Nephi > tree: 14, fruit: 3

Symbolism can convey numerous meanings depending on how the context shifts; herein lies its power.

The tree of life bears a white fruit that captured Lehi’s attention. Immediately following the vision of this tree bearing fruit is a virgin holding a child. The implication is that the tree is synonymous with the virgin, and the fruit is synonymous with the child, or in other words, the tree is Mary, and the fruit is Jesus.

Nephi’s vision tells us that the tree also represents the love of God, as does the fountain of living waters. On another level, however, I believe that Mary may potentially represent Jesus’ spiritual mother as well — our Heavenly Mother (more on that in the future).

What does this all mean? I’m not entirely sure yet; I just found this to be an interesting observation, and I’m certain that it is significant.

If the focus of Lehi and Nephi in these visions carries over to their teachings, it makes me wonder if there is more in Nephi’s writings that could lead to a greater understanding of our Heavenly Mother.

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Heed Them Not

I can’t think of a more spot-on description of the virtual, media-fueled cloud of blabbering that surrounds us than the great and spacious building mentioned first in Lehi’s vision in the Book of Mormon.

The building had the characteristics of being large, spacious, and stood in the air, high above the earth. (1 Nephi 8:26) One implication is that this building had no foundation. It was filled will all kinds of people of every age and sex, and they all wore very fine clothes.

It seems that the principal activity of these people was to mock, scoff, and point their fingers at the people who were partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. (vs.27) Their mocking caused some people to feel ashamed and fall “away into forbidden paths” (vs.28) and become lost.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not about to put the blameRead Full Post

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