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 blame on any of the technology even though the Internet is symbolized by a cloud and so much of the media is broadcast through the air via satellites, wifi, and bluetooth to various devices we stick in our faces continually. In my mind, the great and spacious building is not a server, a router, or even a social network per se; it’s an attitude. A person can use the technology to study the gospel or to troll the faithful with insulting memes, gossip publications or in national “news.”
Perhaps the fine apparel represents popular opinions of the day that one might adorn oneself with to gain ideological acceptance. Why put up with feeling ashamed? Abandon the rod and the path, drop the fruit into the dirt, after all, it feels better to point than be pointed at anyway, right?
The people in the building have an extreme hatred for those they point at while believing firmly in the superiority and worth of their shared ideologies even though they have no foundation in reality. Nephi saw that this building represented the “vain imaginations” (1 Nephi 12:18) and “pride of the world.” (1 Nephi 11:36)
For those who still hold to the rod, have the path beneath their feet, or who are savoring the taste of the fruit, what do you do about this chorus of voices that surround you? All those pointing fingers that extend from a finely adorned sleeve of opinion?
You look out at this vast concourse of people all seemingly united, attractive, and put together all exclaiming that you are wrong, foolish, and should be ashamed of yourself.
So what do you do?
Well, the solution I found is pretty simple:
“…but we heeded them not. These are the words of my father: For as many as heeded them, had fallen away.” (1 Nephi 8:33-34)
Yes, you simply pay them no heed.
To “heed” can mean to take notice or observe and it can be hard not to notice or observe that great and spacious building floating above your head all day and night. But it can also mean to regard, to give attention to, to take seriously or give a steady look. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
I think the heed that the Book of Mormon implies references the latter meanings. Don’t give those in the building your attention or take them seriously; they don’t even deserve a steady look.
If you have the iron rod in your grasp or even better, the fruit of the tree itself, then what do those in the building have to offer? Does that mean to put your blinders on, sink your face into the scriptures, and isolate yourself from the world?
No, because in the vision, the building wasn’t the world, it was a single element of many. Everyone in the world, online, or in the media is not a part of that building. If you encounter the patterns, behaviors, and attitudes of the building, pay them no heed. Don’t forget to look for those same things within yourself as well. If you find yourself pointing the finger of scorn at anyone in your life such as from the false anonymity of the Internet, maybe it’s time for that hand to find its way back to the iron rod.
These verses have been a real light to me in this crazy world. I used to allow stuff to get me all worked up and from time to time it still does. There is no use in crusading into the great and spacious building or engaging them in a discussion. There is nothing to discuss, they are right, and you are wrong, and that’s that. Lehi put it bluntly: “For as many as [regarded, paid attention, took seriously, or gave a steady look to] them, had fallen away.” (1 Nephi 8:34)
Lehi never engaged the people in the building; his focus was the tree. He reached the tree and partook of the fruit. He wasn’t ashamed because he didn’t pay any heed to the people in the building. Instead, he looked around for others, namely his family, and here is what he did:
“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit. And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also. (1 Nephi 8:15-16)
Here is a wise pattern:
1. Seek the fruit of the tree for yourself.
2. Don’t pay the great and spacious building any heed – ever.
3. Beckon others to join you.
I read a post the other day at Junior Ganymede (my favorite blog) where the author mused about the value (or lack thereof) of arguing with Satan. It’s short so I’ll just post the whole thing here because I think it goes well with the subject:
Here is a temple thought.
Satan has more than a bit part in the creation story. But basically all he does is talk. No one takes what he says seriously. No one enters into discussions with him. They all just defy him or command him or condemn him. No one converses with him. Except Eve–and with all due respect for the recent Mormon trend of affirming the consequent, I am not altogether convinced that she was altogether prudent to do so.
I wonder how much our taste for reasoning with people is just a cultural thing. Not that there is anything wrong with cultural things. But they do not convert directly into eternal things.
God reasons some in the scriptures, but mostly not. Mostly He just offers glory or misery. He doesn’t offer logic, he offers a choice. Christ debates the Pharisees and Sadducees–but mostly he ignores their logic with rhetoric and jumps over the conversation they are trying to have to a higher truth.
Pay ’em no heed.
This is reminiscent of Korihor: “Now when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart, yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words” (Alma 30:29).
Whether the context is spiritual (“high priest”) or secular (“chief judge”), Satan and his servants entice us to play their rigged carnival games of rhetoric. The word of God destroys their craft. We can thus “jump over the conversation” to the overarching eternal principles that the enemy entices us to ignore or to justify disobeying.
Similarly, fighting fire with fire increases the chance of being burned; instead, one puts out fires by destroying what feeds them. And treating symptoms doesn’t cure disease; instead, replenishing the body’s deficiencies allows the body to heal itself.
The adversary would have us engage in dialog with him rather than remove what empowers him.
Amen, Particle Man, your comments are spot on with your reference to Korihor. This idea of jumping straight to the principle is something I have advocated heavily in the past in various circumstances where rhetorical games were prevalent. When you get down to the principles, you can’t help but reveal intentions. I could not agree with you more.
Here’s a personal story that came to mind. When I was involved in a small, Independent political party several years ago, a few of us worked on a project that was very principle-focused in nature. We sought to unite people on very solid principles that were originally enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. We noticed that many people took issue with the word “creator” and such, and acknowledged that what was originally published was a bit of a compromise (the word “property” being substituted for “pursuit of happiness”). We found an interesting version from John Adams and created our own that captured the principles in a self-evident manner. Here’s what we eventually came up with:
“All mankind inherently possess natural, essential, and inalienable Rights including enjoying and defending Life and Liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting Property, and seeking and obtaining Safety and Happiness.”
If you can’t point to a foundation of principles, then you have none.