Too often we point the finger of condemnation at the Nephites because they so easily forget their God and wander off into forbidden paths. What we forget when we point the accusing finger at them is that the rest of the fingers of our hand are pointing back at us. As the Come, Follow Me manual states, “it’s easy to forget Him.”
Intro to week 35 Helaman 7-12
Here is a quote from the introduction to this week’s lessons. “In many ways, forgetting God is a bigger problem even than not knowing Him, and it’s easy to forget Him.” Think about why the manual might make such a claim. In what ways is it true? Let’s take just a moment to look at this statement.
In mortality, is it a bad thing not to know God? Well, yes and no. It is ALWAYS better to know Him than to not know Him. He is our source of happiness and joy for all eternity. Yet, as good a thing as it is to know about God, most of humanity has gone through their mortal experience with nary a mention of His name being made. So most have gone through mortality not knowing anything about the source happiness. And that ignorance isn’t all bad. At some point everyone will be taught about our Father in Heaven and His plan for our happiness. We will all come to know who Christ is, and what he has done for us. Everyone will receive the invitation to come to Christ and be saved through the ordinances of salvation. And the blessing of salvation will be the same for everyone who accepts Christ’s sacrifice and receives his covenants.
If we are all going to receive this wonderful opportunity either here or on the other side of the veil, does it matter if we learn about Christ here in mortality versus after this life? The difference is that once you have been taught you can no longer rely on ignorance of God’s laws for protection from His punishments. Once taught, we are accountable for living the laws that bring the happiness we want in our lives.
The nature of people
It is the nature of humans to want results without the effort required to obtain the desired outcome. Who doesn’t like a working shortcut? This is why mature adults roll their eyes when children march in the streets demanding things like free education, guaranteed employment, and no taxes. These benefits require work and sacrifice. Someone must pay the price for such blessings. The same is true for eternal happiness. Unfortunately, we can’t obtain that happiness without living the laws that produce it. The laws of God are what create the ability and circumstances that enable the happiness we want to exist.
Once we have been taught the gospel can we still experience happiness without having to obeying God’s commandments? That would be a big “No!” Once we have left the safe ground of innocence, the laws of God claim those who do not live by them. Any breaking of a law, in any degree, makes us punishable by that law. This is why it is problematic if we are taught about Christ and the gospel God has given him to administer then forget about Christ and go about doing what we want, ignoring God’s laws. Once we know the difference between right and wrong according to God’s commands, we must live those laws or expect His laws to condemn us.
The problem we keep seeing in the all of the scriptures is the same thing we see in current life. Over and over again we are taught what God expects of us, but we get busy enjoying all the blessings received from living the commandments and transfer our loyalties from God to our possessions, wealth, and social position. We start to worship our situation in life and our things, ignoring and violating the commandments that blessed us with happiness in the first place.
Sometimes we marvel at how short sighted the Nephites are. They humble themselves and get the blessings that come from obedience to the commandments then toss those very commandments aside to live riotous lives of excess, lying, stealing, immorality, and murder. They quickly forget the source of their blessings and believe their situation in life is of their own making. They, in short, become full of themselves, lifted up in the pride of their own eyes, just as we do.
Breaking the Pride Cycle
We condemn them for this behavior of cycling between humility and pride, referring to it as the Pride Cycle. But do you remember the last phrase of the quote that started this lesson? It says, “… and it’s easy to forget Him.” We can’t blame them for their forgetful nature, for that is just human nature. We also quickly forget the source of our blessings as well. Why do you think members of the church wander off into inactivity or into apostasy? They forget the source of their testimony and of their joy. They get wrapped up in the affairs of the world and begin to think that their personal prosperity was somehow of their own making, cutting God out of the equation altogether.
We read about the Nephite’s rise and fall from favor in God’s eyes, and human nature is why it happens. The Nephites have been taught the truth. The prophets tell them over and over again that they are sinning against great light or truth. Theirs is not an ignorant sinning, but a deliberate turning away – an anti-repentance – if you will. They “earn” every punishment they receive from the Lord, for they betray Him and reject His laws. The Nephites, like us, so quickly turn away from God’s grace and embrace Satan’s lies. Why? Because Satan appeals to our ego, our conceit, and our pride. People naturally prefer to feel superior to others rather than to feel humble and lowly. And God requires that we learn to lean on Him, and depend on Him. It is only when we choose to be this humble that He is able to teach us and guide us in the path that leads to godhood. And it is only when we are gods that we really will be superior to others, but then we won’t have that as a motivation any more, for we will have become a better kind of people, humble and submissive by choice.
Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi that the key to avoid falling into the Pride Cycle (though he didn’t use that name for it) is to remember. If falling into Satan’s traps happens when we forget the source of our blessings then the key to keeping our blessings is to remember where those blessings come from – Christ.
Our Father in Heaven has made it abundantly clear that the one and only path or way back into His presence is Christ. We must look to Christ in all things. He is our example, our law giver, our judge, the giver of grace. We seek forgiveness from God in Christ’s name, and pray to God always in his name. Christ is our intermediary. Happiness can only come to us when we include Christ in what we do. As soon as we exclude him from our lives, we have already begun our downward descent. We need to make a concerted effort to remember Christ, and put him in supreme prominence in our life, for he is the key to all our happiness for the rest of eternity.
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