Book of Mormon: Helaman 9: Cultivating Discernment
21 But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?
Poor Nephi is knee deep in a culture that has turned away from the power of personal discernment. Instead of seeing the miracle of his ability to prophesy, they see only corruption in his ability. They reason that he must be a part of the murder since he knows something about it.
These Nephites are corrupt themselves. Many turn a blind eye to the bribes, murders and favors perpetuating their culture. They overlook the poor. Wealth and gain are prioritized. They seek the praise of man even though Gadianton is at the heart of the systemic corruption. Why would they seek his praise? His power? His friendship? He’s is not the one who has delivered them time and time again. He’s not the one who has given them prosperity in the land. The Nephites are being led around, stirred up and are quickly losing the ability to make their own decisions. They are at a classic stage of being past feeling, hardened and slow to discern spiritual things.
In my own life, I have experienced this being led about and stirred up. For a time, I was obsessed with social media, any and all books I could get my hands on, and people that stirred me up to follow them instead of seeking the counsel of my own heart. I consulted google more than my scriptures. I was distracted, caught up, overwhelmed, seeking praise from those who didn’t care about me and forgetting to call upon God. One late, late night, I remember looking at the computer screen. My heart was heavy. It was too much for me. I fell to my knees. and plead with God to give me peace, to give me answers. I told Him I didn’t want to leave Him – I loved Him – but I couldn’t discern my way through all the information and voices that were clamouring about me.
My honest prayer that night began to melt my stiffneckedness. It helped me gradually see where I was being blind to the mercy, tenderness, and abundance of God. I saw that I was being tossed about and that I needed to repent. I began to nurture the Spirit more in my life – through prayer and scripture study – so I could spiritually discern between truth and error.
Russell M Nelson has counseled:
A desire to follow the prophet requires much effort because the natural man knows very little of God and even less of His prophet. Paul wrote that “the natural man [receives] not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”4 The change from being a natural man to a devoted disciple is a mighty one.5
I love the line from this quote that things of God are foolishness unto the natural man. I can attest to that through my own experience. Just like with the Nephites, it happened to me over a relatively short period of time. Until my prayer that late night, I hadn’t realized how much I had drifted away from God. It require much effort to move forward, gather my heart and stand in some my own decisions instead of following someone else’s decisions.
Russell M Nelson again recently counseled us:
“We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”8
One of the things the Book of Mormon shows us is the impact of losing spiritual discernment. It adversely affects individuals, families, communities and nations. Just as the Nephites of old, we can see discernment – and with it faith – dwindling in some around us. Our power of discernment is so needed today. Our hearts are needed solidly rooted in truth, not error. Today let us not be tossed about by every wind, holding onto this claim and that claim. Rather let us see the Gadiantons for what they are and anchor ourselves to the Nephis.