Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How Do You Think?

The beginning of the Book of Mormon is fascinating for many reasons, but one of the things I love most is the way it shows the reasoning that goes behind a decision. Moral agency is a mental power and so whenever we use it we go through a mental process and this process is detailed in the story of Nephi and his brothers.

When Lehi asks his boys to go back to Jerusalem for the plates Laman and Lemuel respond that what their father has asked of them will be hard to do. It isn’t difficult to see that they are basing their decision on selfish thinking—it is too hard. But Nephi responds, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Nephi doesn’t think about self. His reasoning is full of faith in the Lord.

Later after the boys have tried to obtain the plates from Laban and have failed, Laman and Lemuel are murmuring against the Lord and their father and Nephi tries to convince them to continue on in their task. At this point Laman and Lemuel argue, “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, year, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” (1 Nephi 3:31). Now we hear Laman and Lemuel’s reasoning take on an element of fear and it is based on the logic of men.

Nephi answers them, “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, year, or even than his tens of thousands?” (1 Nephi 4:1).

Throughout this account Laman and Lemuel make all their decisions based upon their fear, selfishness, and the logic of man. In contrast Nephi makes all his decisions based on trust in God, faith, and selflessness. In addition, Nephi tells us that when he returns to finish the task he is “led by the Spirit.”

Too often we try to manage and improve our lives by working on behavior. But behavior springs from thoughts and attitudes. If we listen to what we are thinking as we make decisions we can change our thinking so that we always use our agency to choose the right.


Wendi said...

As members of the church, we've probably read those stories from 1 Nephi more than any other scripture stories because they are at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. They are simple enough for even a child to understand, but hold a wealth of information and wisdom about family relations, as well as the spiritual lessons you illustrated so well. Thanks for sharing your insights. :)

amanda said...

sis. johnson-
i loved this post as well as "What you need is on its way." Thank you for sharing your thoughts with such clarity. Though it may not always seem like it, they make a difference in your readers' lives.

SuSu said...

Great thoughts. Thank you!

Dani said...

I have gotten so much truth from your chart on the 'Levels of Living' where Selfishness is the bottom level and faith is the highest. I was able to able these concepts even to my NYResolutions where instead of making resolutions just about me, I was able to transform the same resolution to be about others (and then it still encompasses my own growth but in a higher and more powerful way). It can all be about faith and "bring[ing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man". Our work can be part of God's work.