Visualizing the Sources of Ideas
As I was meditating upon the various sources of ideas that influence man, my thoughts converged upon a simple model that I have been finding useful.
Ultimately, the mind of God is the source of all light, truth, and knowledge. The adversary, seeking to bring honor unto himself, aims to captivate the minds of men by means that avoid giving any praise unto God.
Our flesh has been programmed with many biological impulses that drive us to eat, sleep, reproduce, fight, or flee. We find things beautiful or ugly, we are attracted or repulsed, and we are interested or disinterested.
The other people we share life with can be a mixture of all of these influences. Other people can lead us toward or away from God, they can help us overcome or give in to the natural man.
In the middle of the action is us, our intelligence, our mind. We want to seek after the Mind of God but have to determine how to regard ideas from other influences.
The mind of the adversary
The adversary rebelled against God in the premortal realm. He desired to have the honor of God, which is his power (D&C 29:36) and something that God could not give. Our adversaries wish nothing more than that obedience we would give to God for themselves.
Thus, they cannot persuade us to do anything that would end up giving God glory and honor. Mormon explained it this way:
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.Moroni 7:17
The minds of men
The minds of men are typically a blend of various influences. Most people have some kind of moral foundation that originates with God.
Men also champion the appetites and persuasions of the flesh. Rather than being all good or all evil, they are full of contradictions and shifting ideologies. Nephi spoke of the danger in putting one’s trust in man:
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.2 Nephi 4:34
The mind of flesh
…but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.Romans 7:23 NASB
Nephi once exclaimed, “…And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?” (3 Nephi 4:27)
Our flesh desires many things and has many appetites, such as hunger, thirst, sleep, shelter, human connection, etc. Regardless of where our flesh seeks to pull us, it is essential to keep all things within the Lord’s boundaries.
Nephi’s brother, Jacob, taught that “to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” (2 Nephi 9:39)
The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “carnally” as: “In a carnal manner; according to the flesh; in a manner to gratify the flesh or sensual desire.”
Fasting illustrates us that no matter what the flesh desires, ultimately we have the ability, the opportunity, and the responsibility to act in a manner that aligns with God’s will and His great plan of happiness.
The Mind of God
The source of all truth, light, and life comes from God. Like the sun, his influence shines forth into the world but can be obscured, creating shadows and darkness where many become lost.
Even in the darkness, God has not left us comfortless. His word, like a rod of iron, will safely guide us through any of the shadows that would otherwise obscure the way.
When our minds unite with God’s, we can see all things through his eyes. Only God has the knowledge to free our minds to all the beauties of his creation we inhabit and beyond.
Consider what king Lamoni experienced when:
…the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in GodAlma 19:6
This isn’t a simple solution to a complex problem. It is a simple idea that can hopefully provoke some deeper thoughts and soul-searching concerning the ideas we come across in life.
Where we live in this age of information where technology has unlocked unprecedented means of mass communication, we need to be able to understand how to process it.
In past ages where access to ideas was far more limited, it seems that people were given to more pondering and meditation.
Today with our “There’s an app for that”, “Pinterest quote”, instant gratification mentality, we want fast answers that require as little thought as possible.
When we can dig down deep to explore where ideas originate, it empowers us to make the right choices in life and avoid deception and strange roads that would lead us away from living waters and eternal life.