“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

2 Nephi 21: 13-32 Self-Mastery, Finding Unity

2 Nephi 21: 13-32   Self Empowerment and finding unity in all things

Once while visiting my mother's home, Mom invited me to sit and talk for a bit.  Her tone was somber but cool; direct but polite; strong but tender.  I was already married and with two small children so when she extended the invitation, I wondered what it could possibly concern:  health, legal issues, family?  But my mother, out of love for my young family and me, wanted to discuss something of greater concern – the power of drug and alcohol addiction.

As a Psych Nurse and Director of the Drug and Alcohol Unit at our local hospital she was all to aware of the dangers of drug and alcohol. She wanted to make sure I shared in her knowledge. She had both primary and secondary experience of how alcohol and drugs and a myriad of other addictions - by undermining the strength of unity and community- ruin lives and families.  In her profession she had helped de-tox patients from every corner of society.  She shared with me how alcoholism affects all social economic levels, destroys brain cells, lowers birth weights, robs one of nutrition and becomes an unquenchable thirst that destroys our God given power to choose. 
addictions rob us of choice

I respectfully  sat and I listened. I was touched by her sincerity, her determination to speak her mind, and her depth of emotion. As she shared how addictions are often unintentional inheritances, I could feel her love and concern for me.   I did not feel bothered by her desire to instill limits upon me - but rather, I felt her love for me.  She made me promise that I would never drink alcohol, under any circumstance.  I would be allowed to use her as an excuse if ever I felt hounded. I promised and then assured her that her fears were unfounded. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints I faithfully practiced the spiritual and dietary law known as the “Word of Wisdom.”

The recognition of God's love brings us self-mastery. 

My declaration of faith did not comfort her. Her life experience had taught her that religious belief, while good, might not be enough to keep me safe.  Again she asked me to promise. So I nodded my head in assurance. Little did I know that the day would indeed come when faith-based belief would not deter social and business associates.  But when told of my respect for and promise to my mother they ceded their purpose and left me to my choice. The sincere love of a parent, a mother, can be a strong power in our lives. 

As I pondered Lehi's words, I realized that his talk with his sons, like my mother's to me, was meant to empower. My mother’s words left with a strong sense of self. And even more important, I gained the gift of family unity. I knew that if I would make wise choices, my mother’s strength would always be with me. If ever I felt alone or lost the power to choose, I had only to remember her experience to help me regain perspective. 

Addictions lead us into cycles that become hard to break
Lehi recognized that his sons actions were caught within a rut; they were not in control of their lives, their emotions, their goals or desires. He implores them to "awake"(v13) and "shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound." He wants them to "arise from the dust" and come forth out of their-self inflicted "obscurity.(v.23)"

Lehi's plea helped me to recognize that life is filled with varied and diverse powers that want to destroy our power to choose.  Lehi wanted his sons to discard the powers that bind them and recognize how the “power of God” gives us our true freedom.

When we engage the powers of God we find self. God's love is a selfless gift. In contrast, when we allow any of these other powers to control us, we unwittingly find ourselves surrounded by "the sleep of hell" or caught by the "awful chains" (v.13) that bind. A few of these might be: anger, jealousy, hardened hearts, bad habits, the need for “power over others”(v.25), alcohol, drugs, the need to win or be right etc.

Lehi understood that the powers of God bring truth(v.26) unity and self mastery(v. 15,20).  For when we are in control of our lives, we have the power of choice. Once free to make choice we are then able to choose unity. Once "united in all things" we are able to find strength beyond our own, and a safety that comes from “the arms of his love.” (v.15)

Addictions weaken our resolve to self motivate
Having tasted of the Lord's "glory", Lehi only wanted his sons to have this joy.  Lehi understood the difference between the powers that breed faith in our lives and the powers that make us weak.  As a power, faith in God's love (v.15) leads us to "the truth" (v.26) self expression(v.23), self realization(v.21), and above all self-empowerment (v.21). As a power, addictions weaken our resolve, our desires, and our ability to self motivate.  In an effort to inspire his sons Lehi expounded where weaknesses lead:
·       to a "deep sleep" (v. 13)
·       to "the sleep of hell" (v.13) 
·       to be "bound by chains"(v. 13)
·       "the eternal gulf of misery and woe."(v.14)
·        to become blind to the "statutes and judgments of the Lord"(v.16)
·       to bitterness and hard heartedness( v. 17)
·       cursing and destruction (v.18) 
·       obscurity (v. 23)
·       rebelliousness (v 24) 
·       false accusations (v 25)
·       a denial of the power of the Spirit of God
Confucious says: He who contains himself goes seldom wrong

In contrast, Lehi implores his sons to remember the goodness that comes from self mastery.  He wants them to "be men", "be determined in one mind," "be determined in one heart," and "be united in all things" (v 21).  He wants them to be "righteous" (v 19) and enjoy the fruits of "prosperity" (v 21). He wants them to "remember"(v.12), hearken (v.12), "hear" (v.14), and "keep"(v.20) the commandments of God. Ill-bred obsessions keep us from remembering; they keep us from hearing, they teach us to let go of all that is eternal and all that would help us find unity.

Lehi spoke in verse 27 of the "power of God" within his younger son Nephi. Nephi, unlike his embittered elder brothers had chosen to exercise the power of belief, the power of faith, the power of righteousness, the power of truth, the power of the word of God,  the power of  "eternal welfare" and even the power of "the glory of God." Because of his choice to act in such a manner he retained the power of self-mastery, discernment, and decision making in critical situations: i.e. the saving of the ship, the loss of the bow, the finding of food, the direction of travel(1Nephi). 

My mother's love can be likened unto the love Lehi had for his sons. He implored them to arise from the dust. My mother implored me to make and keep a promise. Like my mother, Lehi shares his experience and seeks to help his sons understand he only wants for them to know "joy" (v 21). But before they can know this joy they must find within themselves the power of choice and take back the power that their unbridled passions had stolen from them. 

In her experience as a nurse, Mom had seen how unchecked habits can destroy our ability to discern life truths. And she saw many of her patients reclaim their love of self and find joy. Lehi's mastery of life powers had led him to state that "the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." (v15) I understand now how God's love can not only empower us but can unite us. The power of self-love when combined with love of family creates a mighty force for good in our lives. 

Unity is a blessing that comes to those that seek self mastery.  In order for unity to exist each individual must exercise their own strength. They must "keep" within their heart a desire to serve, to love, to reach out and include others. They must seek the powers that strengthen. No one can force unity upon another. Unity comes first from self mastery. 

Lehi wanted his sons to know that addictions and unbridled passions separate us. He wanted them to understand that in order for them to become "men' they needed to put their fears aside and exercise faith. He understood that self-mastery unites us, but only when we are free from the powers of habits that bind. He understood that faith in a loving, all powerful, and selfless God brings the best kind of power into our life, the power of eternal joy. 

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