I haven't blogged for a long time, because as someone who enjoys writing, but is also a little bit of a perfectionist, it takes me quite a long time to come up with a blog post that I'm happy with. I like a post to have my voice in it, my sense of humor, and my style. Sometimes I can write and it just flows; it's perfect. But more often than not, my style emerges after many, many drafts and revisions.
Sometimes I just don't want to take the time. But I want to start posting insights I have about what I'm reading in the scriptures, simply because... I don't really know why I've started this. I've just had this, I don't know, this something that makes me think it would be a good idea. So I'm starting here. Not at the beginning--I'm picking up where I am, and I'll share as I go. These are dry-run posts, meaning they are basically thoughts-on-a-page, without the many hours of revision and nuance that I usually go through to make them entertaining to read. So slog through if you can. And, as always, take it for what it's worth. I'm just someone who read the scriptures and thinks about them.
1 Nephi 5: 1 – 9
The first 9 verses of Chapter 5 in 1 Nephi are about how Sariah is upset at Lehi because she fears she has lost her sons because Lehi is a visionary man. Lehi basically says, “yeah, I know I’m visionary, and a good thing I am, because we’d be stuck there if I weren’t.”
You can understand Sariah’s point of view; we don’t know how long it had been since her sons had left to get the plates. They had a hard time getting access to them, and they probably took quite a while coming back. She was worried. And you can see Lehi’s point of view, as well: Hey, the Lord told me to do it, so I’m going to. Have some faith, woman! It’s a scene of a worried mother blaming her husband for putting her sons in danger. No fear, a few verses later, her boys come off the airplane, safe and sound with stronger testimonies than when they left, with their mission accomplished. She is grateful for their safety, and that they were able to do what the Lord had asked of them, and she apologizes to her husband, and she repents for her momentary lapse of faith.
It’s a short 9 verses, and on initial read, you’re like, “Sariah, have some faith!” but how many times to we, as mothers, panic? Parenthood is not for the weak of heart. We know that Sariah had great faith. For heaven sakes, she packed up the bare necessities and fled her really, really nice home on the word of her husband’s visions. But her kids were the straw that tried her faith, apparently. I think the real story here was that she repented. Because she wasn’t some voiceless woman with no opinion. She was a mom.
She wavered, like we all do, because she was worried about her kids, and then she repented, and she was probably stronger for it. I like Sariah. I get Sariah. She is the silent powerhouse that supported Lehi and watched in pleasure and despair as her sons became leaders and dissenters. She is a fascinating character to me.
1 Nephi 5: 10 - 22
My first insight here is at the end of the scripture, it says, “he searched them from the beginning.” These words made me wonder, did Lehi ever have access to the scriptures prior to this occasion? Laban had these scriptures, remember, and there was no mass production of the Word of the Lord. Laban had them under lock and key. Imagine, Lehi was a prophet of God, prophesying to the people, yet he possibly had never read the scriptures because he simply did not have access to them. I don’t know if Lehi had read them before—I don’t have a source for that, and my thoughts on the subject are just that: thoughts. But, because of the rest of the chapter, and the enthusiasm with which Lehi found his genealogy, and Laban’s genealogy, it makes me think this might be his first time through, and he devoured them and found great joy in identifying his ancestry.
My other thoughts are based on the Book of Mormon Institute manual. In that book, it states,
“The value of the Brass Plates to the Nephites cannot be overestimated. By means of them they were able to preserve the language (), most of the civilization, and the religious knowledge of the people from whence they came… ():
This is a quote from Mormon Doctrine; you can see the full source citation if you click on the Institute Manual link above. This is a very important statement. This statement reveals the importance of a religious text on a civilization. A religious set of ideals and morals is essential to the preservation of a culture or civilization. Think of any successful civilization, and identify the ideals upon which it stood: It is usually some sort of religious or moral code. The civilizations who were unable to uphold that moral code eventually disintegrated. As we look to our own nation, which was built upon the Judeo/Christian ideals, morals, and doctrine, we see the greatest civilization in the history of the world was built. I get really jazzed about this idea, because I have such a love for the founding of our country for a lot of reasons, one being that it is the best example of words and writing changing the world. But I digress.
The morals of our society are built upon a religious belief. Even if you are not religious, you benefit from having a culture built upon religious mores. The Judeo/Christian belief emphasizes the importance of families, purity, wholesomeness, and goodness. Our government was built upon the idea of a Creator who endowed upon all of humanity rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In fact, the founders said that these beliefs were “self-evident.” This is old-fashioned for “duh.” It was common knowledge to most of those in the colonies. Because they were a religious people with a belief in a Creator.
We now live in a culture which is increasingly irreligious. Even those who are religious, how often do we read the scriptures? I know my answer is not enough. Yet here, in the first book of the Book of Mormon, we are told the importance of a religious text. Not only does it enlighten the spirit, but it preserves the language and the civilization.
Let’s talk about language for a minute. Language is the method of thought. I remember a friend who learned French for his mission once told me, “I have thoughts in French that I could never have in English, because we don’t have words for them in English.” I have thought about that for a long time. That you can think something that you have never thought before, simply because you have the words for that thought. This proved to me that language controls thought. Those who master the language are very powerful people. People who master language, those who can read it and write it and speak it, have the power to influence the way people think. And thoughts turn into beliefs, and beliefs motivate action. The sticker I have on my laptop is an incredible understatement: Words Matter. Oh, they matter. This blows my mind. Someone I have never met can control my thoughts, just because they control the words.
So how important is it that we learn to use words, and read words, and understand words, and understand how words can be used to inspire, and to teach, but also to manipulate, and to control? And this is what the Lord is telling us through his commandment to Lehi to go back for the plates:
Words matter. Text matters. Story matters. Ancestry matters. It is all so important to preserve our language, our culture, and most importantly, our civilization.
I have been reading a book called The Boy Crisis. It is a book written by two social scientists who have set out to answer the question: Why are our boys struggling? I haven’t read the whole thing, but so far, they have identified a couple reasons why boys are struggling: 1, our boys are purposeless. Because men no longer have a cultural role of providing for women, they feel adrift in a world where, for centuries, a man’s job was to provide and protect. Society has told our boys they aren’t needed anymore. 2, Previously, religion would give boys purpose, and religion can and does filled the purposeless void for boys today: religions define their role as men and gives them direction in a family structure; however, our country is increasingly irreligious. So, boys fill they have no purpose because they are no longer needed to provide and protect women, and two, they have no religious structure to help them identify their purpose in the overall meaning of life, and 3, the increasing rate of fatherlessness, or father figures, leave boys without examples of what it means to be a man.
All of these reasons our boys are struggling can be fulfilled by reading a religious text. The scriptures are filled with men who have purpose outside of providing and protecting. Men in these scriptures rely on the Lord, and serve as examples for our boys. The men in the scriptures are told how to lead families. They are fathers, or learned from their fathers and mother how to be fathers. They are told how important their role in the family is. The scriptures portray men who cry, who pray for their children, who fight for their country, who ask for forgiveness, who sacrifice what they have for something bigger than themselves, and who are kind and compassionate. Without a religious text, these examples of true manliness are lost to civilization. And our boys are suffering because of it, and because our boys are suffering, our families are suffering. And because our families are suffering, our civilization is suffering.
The boy crisis is just one example of how our civilization is not being preserved because of the lack of a religious text. I could name others, but this is the one on my mind right now. Without the scriptures, we begin to lose our culture, our civilization, and our language. This was why retrieving the Brass Plates was so essential to the success of the Nephites. If they wanted to have a prosperous civilization, and to preserve the language and the civilization, they needed the scriptures. If we return to the Institute manual, we get additional insight on this:
“….By way of contrast, the Mulekites, who were led out of Jerusalem some 11 years after Lehi’s departure, and who had no record equivalent to the Brass Plates, soon dwindled in apostasy and unbelief and lost their language, civilization, and religion…”
When will this happen to us, if we do not turn to our religious texts? There is joy in reading the scriptures; scriptures enlighten our spirit and open us up to personal revelation. But, just as important, a religious text helps us understand language, to read it and to write it. It gives a guide for society, how to conduct ourselves and to raise our families. It is a preservation of all that is most important in our country. Scriptures are important not only in our lives, but also essential for our civilization.