We Love Spiritual Sound Bites

So I was in sacrament meeting recently and listened to a talk given by a man that has been suffering from several physical challenges the last few years. It was very touching to watch him be so vulnerable to share his personal experience. He did such a great job and warmed everyone’s heart that were in attendance that day.

This day he did something rather ordinary and expected for a sacrament meeting talk, but this time the spirit gave me some insight I had not noticed before. 

He’s plugging along and then plucks up a scripture mastery to illustrate his experience. This scripture seemed like the perfect context and was very helpful for him in his personal journey. I’ll share the scripture in just a bit, of course, and explain why this seemingly ordinary tradition might not be serving us as well as we might think.

But, I mean, hey, we’ve all done this–I’ve done this–so I get it, no big deal. Like I said, it has become ordinary and even expected. Heck, this happens over the pulpit in general conference all the time, which is probably why it seems so ordinary or expected. We even turn general conference talks into more sound bites.

But like I said, this time this experience got me thinking how much we love “sound bites.” Per sound bites, I thought someone did a great job describing the subject on Wikipedia. After all, everything on Wikipedia is true, isn’t it?

A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music extracted from a longer piece of audio, often used to promote or exemplify the full length piece. In the context of journalism, a sound bite is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or viewer.

That part I think we all get. This next part (I bolded) is what really brings this home and stuck with me:

Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and can be misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation, leading to conflict over journalistic ethics.

The Snackable Life

But like I said, this is ordinary and even expected stuff for us. Nothing here seemed unexpected from a sacrament meeting talk. Maybe it’s because we do this in other aspects of our lives now, too.

Part of me totally understands this and this makes sense. After all, our mortal brains don’t have the capability to remember entire talks, speeches, reports, stories and even histories. So we chunk all this big stuff up into highlights, bullet points, summaries and conclusions.

The other part to this is “time.” We’re busy people. We don’t have time for reading all the big stuff. It’s just too inconvenient for us. In comes the social media machines and meme apps to fill up our empty moments with sound bites of wisdom and beautify our mobile devices from places like Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram because, as we all have been told, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

This snackable mentality is like what we’ve done to our diet over the last 50 years. Eating and family meals used to be an event. Real thought with daily and weekly preparations were put into it. Meals were a time for engaging, talking, listening, understanding, planning and even teaching among the people you loved most. Now it seems we’ve converted to last minute preparations, prepared meals, dining out, fast food and anything snackable. To add insult to injury, we’ve complicated things by adding other distractions like technology and mobile devices into the equation.

All this with the hallucination that we are relatively “healthy”–physically, spiritually and emotionally. The hard part is that this is the new norm and for a generation or two or three back, and this is all we know. It’s to the point where as long as we are not dead, we’re doing ok, and we just have to plug along to keep living in survival mode.

But why? Other than mental limitations and time, why do we do this? We do it because we’re trying to constantly add meaning to our lives. It’s the snackable part of our survival mode lives. Feeling a little empty? No problem. Just plug into Facebook for a 24oz refill of diet-Uchtdorf-meme-quote and frozen-microwavable-inspirational-accomplishments of friends and family. Ahhhhh, ok, got that comfort buzz going. I’m ready to tackle that pile of laundry, my kids’ homework or that business meeting now.

It’s this sort of thing that makes me wonder to myself, do we have a spiritual eating disorder?

Scriptural May Not Be Spiritual

But what if all this effort to segment and chunk up this big spiritual stuff into small consumable bite sizes is actually not healthy at all? What if memorizing scriptures or even scripture masteries are not actually as healthy as we think they are? What if this new norm of living in snackable-spiritual-survival-mode is keeping us from the stuff that is actually going to bring the most meaning to our lives and change the way we see God, our lives and the people in our lives?  

Yes, I have pontificated. So, let me bring this back to the scriptures. But before I do, let me be clear that this is bigger than this one person and this one example. As a matter of fact, it should not be about this man specifically at all. This just happen to be one of many examples or triggers to this blog post.

The sound bite or snackable scripture that he applied in this case was Ether 12:27. I think we’re all familiar with this one.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

It’s a classic and we love it. We apply it in all sorts of situations depending on the keyword that connects with us at the time–weakness, humble, grace, faith, weak things, strength and more. There’s a lot to go on here and clearly it was applicable in the situation used by the man in sacrament meeting–faced with physical challenges, creating a situation of increased humility, and driving him to depend more on the Lord for strength and faith.

But like I asked earlier, what if instead of consuming this scriptural sound bite, we dug deeper and feasted on something more–something way more, something that would fill you up 100x longer than any snackable portion? Something that would not just touch your spirit but rather it would change your spirit, making it, not just scriptural, but spiritual? What would happen if we feasted on the context?

Whoa, Never Seen That Before

As this brother was quoting Ether 12:27, I was prompted to turn to it in the scriptures. So, let’s take a closer look at Ether chapter twelve and I will relay some of the things that the spirit taught me. However, I am not going to tell you or interpret everything that is in here for you. I would never think of taking this awesome opportunity away from you. So let me present some things at a high level with some things to note and questions to ask yourself as you study this. Yes, I said “study”. That might be a hard word for you but if you really take the time, I assure you that you will find something in here that you did not previously know existed. And it’s been there the whole time.

  • Some other context to this is that this is Moroni doing some quoting and commentary on the words of Ether.
  • V2 Ether was a prophet. Not the prophet but one of several. After all, the Lord, God intended for all to be prophets (Numbers 11:24-29). This is apparently something really important profound to him and that he felt needed to be shared because, he “could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him”.
  • V3-4 How did he feel about the people? What did he want from them? What is the significance of “believing in God” in this situation?
  • V5 Makes you wonder what “great and marvelous things” Ether prophesied that they could not believe because they couldn’t see them.
  • V6 Interesting…a trial of faith is required “to see something” not just believe it.
  • V7 Ok, this is getting good now. This same trial of faith can now develop more faith and “it was by [this same great] faith that Christ showed Himself unto our fathers.” Think about that. What would that experience be like for the Savior, Jesus Christ, to show Himself to you? What would He show you? Why would He show you those things?
  • V8-9 So some have already seen Him and Moroni is saying that there are two reasons that He, the Son, has “shown Himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way”. What are those two reasons?
    • (1) that others might be partakers of a gift…a “heavenly gift.” What is this “heavenly gift”? This “heavenly gift” is the same gift that is the result of having faith that comes as a result of a trial. The gift therefore is that He would do what to you or for you (v7)?
    • (2) “that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.”
  • V10 Now he makes a connection from this same faith where He shows Himself to certain people to “they of old were called after the holy order of God”. The “Holy Order of God” is a topic for a different post but suffice it to say for now that this “Holy Order of God” is not the Priesthood found within the LDS Church as a whole. In the meantime, you’ll need to ask the Lord to confirm that for you.
  • V11-18 Note all the power of faith to do many things. Note in v18 that he now comes full circle with his desire for his people (v3-4) which is the most foundational form of faith which is that “they first believed in the Son of God.”
  • V19-21 Now he reinforces the real power of this great faith exemplified by some. So great was their faith (faith in what? “They believed in the Son of God”) so much so that they “could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” What does that mean? What did they see? Why did they see it? What benefit is it to those that did see? What is it that the Lord wants them to see? Why?
  • V22 What is “the promise”? Why did the Lord command Ether & Moroni to share? Who are the gentiles (same reference initiated by Nephi and throughout the Book of Mormon)?
  • V23-25 Now Moroni goes into revealing his inadequacies and fears. What is it that he fears? Why did he fear this so much? Think about that for a second. Something so profound and amazing an experience such as the Lord showing Himself to a person that Moroni feels inadequate to write it for fear that he is not going to do it justice. Even so much so that he fears “lest the Gentiles (you and I) shall mock at [his] words.”
  • V26-28 Now consider the context of these comforting words from the Lord about having weakness and feeling insufficient to characterize the greatness of the Lord and the reward for great faith which is that the Lord can and will show Himself to any person.
  • V29-33 Notice the conversation in which Moroni praises the Lord.
  • V34-37 Notice he highlights love is charity and is required to inherit that place which is prepared for any person. “Mansions of my Father” is also a topic for another time.
  • V38-40 Moroni rids himself of any accountability for declaring exactly what he was commanded to share. How important is it that he feels the need to rid himself of any accountability?
  • V41 In Moroni’s farewell what does he “commend” every person to do? What does it mean to have the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost abide in you forever? That last question might not be so obvious, but in this new context and if you ask the Lord for more understanding, you should be able to figure it out.

How ‘Bout Them Apples?

My hope is that you can now recognize a few things. First, that living off of spiritual and snackable sound bites will never offer you the spiritual health that is intended for you. Feast on the words of Christ. Believe them.

Also, I hope you realize more than you did before that the Doctrine of Christ is peppered all throughout scripture but more specifically in The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the latter day guide for the Gentiles to receive the Savior, Jesus Christ, Himself and to have the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost abide in each of them forever. This is His doctrine. Believe His doctrine through His words and His spirit.

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