Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, June 10

Filters of Reality: Perceiving Life through Frames in the Book of Mormon

Filters of Reality: Perceiving Life through Frames in the Book of Mormon

by grego

(Some quick thoughts on the topic, not a peer-reviewed paper, eh.)

Reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, through the eyes of frames and filters, such as understood by NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and EFT (emotional freedom technique), has given new insight (at least to me) into many of the stories that I want to share.

We have all met the (possibly unknowing) hypocrite–the person who talks endlessly about the negative in others, while ignoring the same (or worse) negative in themself–the person who defends their child when they’re getting beat up, then defends their child when the child beats up other children; the drunk person talking about how stupid smokers are; the person who believes stories only if they are on the TV news, but not the internet news; etc. As we listen to and observe them, we wonder how they could be so blind. What’s more interesting, is that you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face about their hypocrisy, and it will have no impact on the way they feel about and see it.

Remember “Johari’s window”? It’s that concept of there are things others can see, that we can’t/ don’t/ don’t want to; and vice-versa.

We see life through our own eyes. How we perceive it, is dependent on who we are, and all that went/ goes into that. This is called a “frame”. Talk to two involved people about something that just happened, and a third disinterested person, and you might very well get three very different stories. Well, of course, you might say, the bad people are lying, right? Not always.

There is a perfect way to see things, a perfect truth. This is how God sees things. We, however, don’t the way God sees; we see less than perfect.

There are two main reasons that we are less than perfect in the way we view the world. In Doctrine and Covenants 93, it says:
38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.

In other words—in addition to being individuals—we see things differently than God because we:
1. are disobedient/ sin
2. have incorrect things taught to us/ learn incorrect things.

Even many in LDS/ Mormon families can see it in the reality of their lives. For example, a family that is generally skinny might show that anyone fat is less than them. Or a family that is generally large might show that anyone thin is weird. Or that someone with a different color of hair is not as good, or that someone of another religion is not honest.

These incorrect teachings are not just about religion; they can be about anything and everything, literally. They can come from about anywhere and everywhere, too. We receive it, and it becomes part of us. It’s like we are like computers; the first program installed, is written on a blank slate, and becomes dominant; when another program comes up that conflicts with it, or wants to overwrite it, we protect the first program—usually without logically understanding why (if there even *is* a logical ‘why’…).

We see this in the scriptures in many examples; it seems that our having less-than-perfect perception and frames are a big part of what God teaches us.

Doubting Thomas. Witnesses, even the other eleven, in all solemnity, and he still doubts. Why? Alma the Younger, the prophet’s son, and he still doubts. Why? King Lamoni; his father; the brother of Jared; Saul/Paul; many investigators in the Church… the list is far from finished. Why?

I imagine that somehow, Thomas could not believe that Christ could resurrect. Something inside him said, “No way”. Obviously that didn’t come from God. So where did it come from? Maybe he grew up with his parents teaching him that. Maybe he heard it in the synagogue. Maybe his friend expressed unbelief. Maybe he read it in a book, or a respected adult told him. Maybe when he was three years old his pet died, and he was told it just couldn’t come back to life. Who knows; the point is, somehow, that unbelief was planted in his heart, and it took root, and stayed.

It took the Savior appearing to him to jolt his unbelief. He now had two opposing thoughts—his learned unbelief, and the Savior standing in front of him, with a body. Something had to go, or be rationalized.

We are all like him in some respect. We all have incorrect beliefs in us. We probably picked them up in a similar way.

It often takes an experience that jolts/ jogs us, which then allows us to understand and accept new truths. That’s what happened with Alma the younger. It took an angel appearing in power to convince him that something was amiss with his current belief system. For Paul, it was similar. For king Lamoni, it was Ammon, the testimonies of his servants, the arms, and Ammon’s obedience. For king Lamoni’s father, it was the experience of meeting Lamoni and Ammon and interacting with them. For the brother of Jared, it was seeing Jesus seeming to have a body. When these experiences happened, it caused the person experiencing them to be astonished, and marvel.

What one had never even considered as possibly true, was now a strong choice. The evidence, even proof, was clear; to deny it would mean to be a liar.

Alma, it seems, had never considered that his father’s teachings were true. The impact was so low, that the words he uses to describe remembering Jesus—
“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world (Alma 36:16-17)–seem to say, three days of the most intense pain, and finally I recalled one time when I (over?)heard my father talking about *one* Jesus Christ, a certain someone…

King Lamoni believed that: “Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit. Notwithstanding they believed in a Great Spirit they supposed that whatsoever they did was right; nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in slaying his servants” (Alma 18:5). It seems that the thought that he had killed someone might be wrong/ bad had never even occurred to him before the experience with Ammon!

His father was not lying about his deepest convictions when he said: “…Lamoni, thou art going to deliver these Nephites, who are sons of a liar. Behold, he robbed our fathers; and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us of our property” (Alma 20:13). His father also seriously believed what he told Ammon: “I know that if I should slay my son, that I should shed innocent blood; for it is thou that hast sought to destroy him” (Alma 20:19). He truly believed that Ammon was wicked, and there for only bad reasons. He thought he was protecting his son and the Lamanite kingdoms.

The brother of Jared had never considered that God had a body. It took a minor appearance and questioning to start things rolling.

When they all found out differently, they marveled. After those experiences, it still took teachings and the Spirit for them to come to correct understandings. Ammon preached to king Lamoni, and Lamoni had further experiences that witnessed to him that the new belief system being taught him was correct. Aaron preached to Lamoni’s father, and he had similar experiences of having more witnesses. For the brother of Jared, it took a further appearance with explanation, clarification, and more teachings, to learn more truths about God. Of king Lamoni’s father, the Book of Mormon says: “And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly” (Alma 20:26).

If those experiences had never happened, wouldn’t it be likely that they would have continued in their way of believing? Isn’t that what usually happens with us? Doesn’t it usually take an experience to shock us back into reality, into searching for deeper meaning in existence and more purpose to life?

Experiences of this sort, however, do not require a change in belief, or reframing. It is only an opportunity for such. For example, when Alma and Amulek preached in Ammonihah, Zeezrom was first astonished at Alma and Amulek; after a reframing, he is astonished with the people who still believe as he did moments ago. These people had heard the same words, but there was a very different outcome of that experience.

The Lamanites that fought against Ammon were astonished, twice:
“But Ammon stood forth and began to cast stones at them with his sling; yea, with mighty power he did sling stones amongst them; and thus he slew a certain number of them insomuch that they began to be astonished at his power; nevertheless they were angry because of the slain of their brethren, and they were determined that he should fall; therefore, seeing that they could not hit him with their stones, they came forth with clubs to slay him. But behold, every man that lifted his club to smite Ammon, he smote off their arms with his sword; for he did withstand their blows by smiting their arms with the edge of his sword, insomuch that they began to be astonished, and began to flee before him; yea, and they were not few in number; and he caused them to flee by the strength of his arm” (Alma 17:36-37).
However, we see that even though they were astonished, they didn’t allow that to change them:
“And they were also rebuked by those men who had stood at the waters of Sebus and scattered the flocks which belonged to the king, for they were angry with Ammon because of the number which he had slain of their brethren at the waters of Sebus, while defending the flocks of the king. Now, one of them, whose brother had been slain with the sword of Ammon, being exceedingly angry with Ammon, drew his sword and went forth that he might let it fall upon Ammon, to slay him; and as he lifted the sword to smite him, behold, he fell dead” (Alma 19:21-22).

How about the five with the chief judge?
They didn’t believe Nephi at first; it took the experience of beholding the fulfillment of the prophecy of the chief judge lying in his blood for them to consider that he might be right:
“Behold, now it came to pass that when Nephi had spoken these words, certain men who were among them ran to the judgment-seat; yea, even there were five who went, and they said among themselves, as they went: Behold, now we will know of a surety whether this man be a prophet and God hath commanded him to prophesy such marvelous things unto us. Behold, we do not believe that he hath; yea, we do not believe that he is a prophet; nevertheless, if this thing which he has said concerning the chief judge be true, that he be dead, then will we believe that the other words which he has spoken are true. And it came to pass that they ran in their might, and came in unto the judgment-seat; and behold, the chief judge had fallen to the earth, and did lie in his blood. And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge. But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth (Helaman 9:1-5).
Later, we learn that this was not the end of them; it was just an opening for further things:
“And it came to pass that the five were liberated on the day of the burial. Nevertheless, they did rebuke the judges in the words which they had spoken against Nephi, and did contend with them one by one, insomuch that they did confound them” (Helaman 9:18). Also, “And there were some of the Nephites who believed on the words of Nephi; and there were some also, who believed because of the testimony of the five, for they had been converted while they were in prison” (Helaman 9:39).

Not everyone changes that big, that fast. Changes in our frames can come over time and through many minor experiences.

This is often the case for many investigators of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many grow up thinking, any church but *that* one. Everyone knows it’s the church of the devil, a cult, its leaders were charlatans, etc. Then, often, it starts when they get uncomfortable with life in some way. They start to feel uneasy, like there is more but they don’t know what; they feel led to imagine more to religion and spirituality and life; they have a tragedy, major or minor, that opens them up to deeper thinking; etc. Maybe they (unknowingly) become acquainted with or friends with a Mormon; they hear a few things. They can’t believe anyone that kind and smart, could be so misled. They ask questions. They open the scriptures. They go to church, just to see. They sing the hymns. They pray. They talk to the missionaries. They read the Ensign. Little by little, what was impossible, becomes probable, and then even undeniable. Without that first big step, though, chances are they might not have even begun the journey.

The more distorted our filters, the more distorted our perceptions of truth and life will be, and the more it will require to jolt us and change them. (Most of the people just spoken of had very distorted filters.)

One thing that really had to be reframed for me was appearances and judging. I have had many experiences that have taught me to let go of untruth and accept new truth regarding those things. Most of the experiences have shocked me and my beliefs in one way or another, and caused me to rethink some things.

One day, if we are to see God as he is, face to face, eye to eye, we will have to have all of our filters of “reality” fall from our eyes, and see things as He sees them. It is interesting that Saul/Paul was struck blind, and had scales fall from his eyes. The Book of Mormon says of king Lamoni:
“Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God…” (Alma 19:6).

As we continue to be open to the truth and the Spirit and its teachings, the experiences we have—even very small and seemingly insignificant ones—will continue to reframe our perceptions and make them (and us) more godlike.

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