Optional: let me read this article to you.
Podcast also available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Buzzsprout, TuneIn, Alexa, and Stitcher
Highlights for Ether 12-15
First, you may be wondering at the title above and perhaps even think, “no way, not my sins.” That was my thought too. Please give me one chance to share some remarkable understandings from Ether, chapter 12 and maybe change your perspective?
Ether chapter 12 is so incredible – there are several rich, deep verses to spend time on. For now, let’s focus on verse 27.
Recently, I had a memorable, powerful witness come to me through this verse. You might be familiar with the type of experience I describe? An amazing ah-hah moment, when the secrets of the universe open up and dazzle your understanding with new light. I remember just where I was sitting and how lifting and empowering this felt.
Divide and Conquer
One of my greatest struggles are my inappropriate thoughts (in all their varieties) and the battle for real estate in my own mind. From talking to others, I’m guessing it’s one of the greatest battles fought by a majority of us. Without a doubt, our imagination and thought space are one of Satan’s most effective points of entry. Thoughts, including ones related to appetites and passions, are the tools by which he binds us up and shuts us down. They can include immoral thoughts, negativity, shame, ill-will, jealousy, bitterness, suspicion, resentment, vanity, competition, fear, doubt, egoism, low self-worth, unkindness, blame, and more.
One of Lucifer’s main stratagems is to divide and conquer. It’s all about isolating you. If he can separate you from the Spirit, he will. If he can separate you from your confidence before God, he will. (In fact, if he can separate you from your own confidence, count on it.) If he can busy you with inferior emotions and thought parades, which slow down the good you do – he definitely will. If he can distort your identity, he will. If he can weaken valuable relationships and separate you from people who are good for you, he will. If he can influence contention, jealousy, pride or anger in you or in those around you, he will.
If you remember anything from this article, it’s this: Satan’s underlying motive is to isolate you and dismantle your strengths.
He knows we are more powerful when we are united to God. He knows we are more powerful when we are united with each other in positive ways. He has to weaken our connections to God and to other good people. Separation is his most important strategy.
Let’s take a look at some of our internal battles and hopefully bring appetites and passions into perspective. I especially appreciate this definition about appetites from the Summa Theologica:
Perhaps the most helpful point for right now is we come hard-wired with those inclinations. We didn’t invent them, we came pre-disposed to them. There’s a difference. Second, you will experience such inclinations because mortality is designed to experience them.
Third, the fact that we encounter appetites, negativities and passions every single day does not demean or reduce our integrity. In fact, it is by our opposition to such things, that we build character and create a better version of ourselves.
Finally, the whole underlying point of appetites and passions is to become stronger than they are. So a failure does not take place simply by experiencing an appetite, a thought or a passion we shouldn’t. Instead, it’s all about whether we’re willing to face them head on and do battle with them. Are we willing to feel uneasy with them, strive against them, overcome them and eventually become stronger than they are?
Appetites and passions come to us guaranteed. Overcoming them is not only a necessary process for our happiness, it’s an exalting one.
My Own Ah-hah
My prayer started out because of that same verse we read from Ether. After pondering it, I prayed and asked with sincere intent (but at the same time, full of doubt and incredulousness). “How on earth could the sins which so easily beset me, the ones I struggle with and despise the most, have ANYTHING to do with something STRONG”?
All the sudden, I saw it as clear as could be. My greatest weaknesses and temptations pointed right at my greatest strengths and potential. Of course! Now it is obvious to me, those are the strengths Satan desires to mess with and shut down the most. So, he gathers the associated, opposing weaknesses and uses them just like tools to dismantle our gifts, talents, potential and important relationships.
For example, the people who would be best for us, the ones with whom we would create the most good in this world (or even in ourselves) – anything he can throw in between you and them to mess that up…he will.
The Spirit manifested two paths of understanding for me. They are celestial-quality instructions to move forward. The first one was, steel up your mind. In other words, study out how to steer your internal dialog and be more intentional with your thoughts and mindfulness. I have since taken classes on this same topic and it has become one of my favorite studies.
Second, do not wait upon the opinion or approval of others to move forward and do those things you are gifted and inspired to do. Or even wait for permission to be yourself. The Spirit called up to remembrance of how I recently allowed the doubt of others to become my own self-doubt and hesitation. As a consequence, I didn’t set things into motion with the same energy and effectiveness I could have.
Hopefully, sharing this will send some encouragement your way. I would even suggest to prayerfully take another look at your own weaknesses and sins sometime soon. Perhaps start with the ones you are most concerned with. Ask to see what strength they are an obstacle to. The answers may both completely surprise you and empower you. Prayer is an effective antidote to the darkest challenges we face. I #GiveThanks for the Spirit, for scripture study and for the Savior who lovingly, personally guides our path and enlightens our understanding.