“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?”
This sentence is from 2 Nephi 4:27, part of what is known as “Nephi’s Psalm”. I’ve been studying it for a few weeks now off and on and it seems that every time I look at it, I find a new little gem. This particular sentence is an interesting one to ponder and it brings many thoughts to mind.
Nephi is asking this question to himself in this particular instance. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed that I had been glossing over the comma in this sentence. Now the original Book of Mormon did not have punctuation, so this comma was added at some point along the process (that would be interesting to study). When you read it, try pausing for a moment after the comma and then read the rest.
“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?”
Today, I hear many justify sin because of weaknesses or defects in the flesh, but Nephi isn’t having any of it. In asking the question “why should I yield to sin,” he immediately disqualifies temporal weaknesses by adding: “because of my flesh?”
Today, how many sins are justified “because of [the] flesh”, because of genetics or desires and attractions that just seem impossible to reconcile. Our flesh does not determine our choice, we ultimately choose whether to yield or to not yield in spite of the flesh.
Nephi’s younger brother Jacob spoke about yielding:
“O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” – 2 Nephi 9:39
King Benjamin’s words on yielding indicate that it is essential to the process of becoming a saint.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19
The world and the wisdom thereof tells us to follow the urges of the natural man, where God’s way is empowerment and not excuses. This whole life is about overcoming the flesh, no matter what the enticings might be. It is interesting that the word “entice” shows up with the word “yield” in both these scriptures. Noah Webster defined “entice” as:
Entice: To incite or instigate, by exciting hope or desire; usually in a bad sense; as, to entice one to evil. Hence, to seduce; to lead astray; to induce to sin, by promises or persuasions.
One of Webster’s definitions of “yield” is:
Yield: To resign; to give up; sometimes with up or over; as, to yield up their own opinions.
How often do we hear people suggest that we give in to whatever the flesh feels enticed by? “You are born that way” is often the justification for accepting an enticement as a way of life and a way to define yourself. If the world and the wisdom thereof were to re-write Nephi’s words it might read:
“And why should you yield to sin? Because of your flesh.”
No matter how enticing the ever-changing philosophies of the world sound, you can choose whether to believe them or not. Overcoming these enticings may very well be a lifelong battle, but why should that surprise us? Is anybody ever completely free from temptations in this life? If a temptation was not tempting then it wouldn’t be a temptation. Noah Webster defined tempt in this way:
1. To incite or solicit to an evil act; to entice to something wrong by presenting arguments that are plausible or convincing, or by the offer of some pleasure or apparent advantage as the inducement.
The truth is that although yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit over the enticings of the natural man can be incredibly difficult, it is necessary and possible. King Benjamin said that all must be “willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him” and often these things are not easy tasks, they aren’t meant to be.
God’s way is not wide gates and broad roads, his way is narrow paths and up mountains.
The author of weakness
I remember hearing Wendy Ulrich speak at an event where she described a profound doctrine, she said that “Satan is the author of sin and God is the author of weakness”. The fact that Satan is the author of sin is pretty obvious but is God really the author of weakness? Why would he do that to us? The truth becomes clear in one verse from Ether 12:27:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
To understand grace better and how it is sufficient for us, I would recommend Brad Wilcox’s talk “His Grace is Sufficient” which is fantastic. In a oneClimbs article titled “The Strength God Gives” it describes what is meant by “strong” in this verse and how there are at least two very different types of strength that God may bless us with and how important it may be to understand the difference.
While many of us sorrow and self-loathe over our weaknesses, the apostle Paul saw things differently:
“And [Jesus Christ] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9
Perhaps those that are weakest among us have some of the greatest potential to see the power of God in their lives; just imagine what would happen if people realized this.