Thursday, October 20, 2016

If Thine Eye Offend Thee

In his epic final sermon to his people in ancient America, King Benjamin warned:

I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them. But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not (Mosiah 4:29-30).

It is easier than ever today to walk, click or even glance our way into situations that tempt us to sin in one way or another. In response, the Lord has taught that we must be proactive in our efforts to prevent or avoid those influences that would lead us into temptation. If thy hand or foot offend thee, he taught, "cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into [eternal] life maimed, than having two hands [or feet] to go into hell" (Mark 9:43, 45). Likewise, "if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire" (Mark 9:47).

Our feet, hands or eyes can offend or betray us if they cause us to stumble, to be lead astray, to sin or to abandon our faith. Of course, Christ was not advocating a policy of amputating first and asking questions later. Rather, he understood that amputation is a procedure reserved for body parts that have become seriously damaged, infected or diseased and could betray the best interests of the body by causing further harm or even death if not removed.

Further insight comes through the Joseph Smith translation of these verses. That text states:

If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off... And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off... And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out (JST Mark 9:40, 42, 46).

Each of us must evaluate the people and principles that guide our lives. Do we have a friend or family member that consistently tries to get us to do or accept things we know are contrary to God's commandments? Do we subscribe to a cause or behaviors or a school of thought that may ultimately lead us away from our faith in Christ? Do the leaders we choose to support and follow illuminate the path that will lead us back to our Heavenly Father or do they use illusion to lure us in some other direction?

"It follows," Elder Walter F. Gonzalez has taught, "that such cutting off refers not only to friends but to every bad influence, such as inappropriate television shows, Internet sites, movies, literature, games, or music. Engraving in our souls this principle will help us to resist the temptation to yield to any bad influence ("Today is the Time," Ensign, Nov. 2007, 55).

The Lord's teaching leaves no room for exceptions. He does not say to sever relationships unless it would be awkward or to stop following toxic leaders unless the better leaders don't seem to be popular. As any good physician would, he says clearly and decisively that we should terminate any influence in our lives that may betray the welfare of our souls.

There are diverse ways and means employed today to lead the faithful away from the strength and protection of their faith in the Good Shepherd, but each of us is admonished to be proactive in our efforts to root out spiritual infection and evil influences by the echoes of King Benjamin's words:

If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not (Mosiah 4:29-30).

Remember: Amputate those infections influences and perish not.

1 comment:

  1. Two things I wasn't able to fit in the blog:

    1. Abraham is an example of someone who cut off toxic family members to keep the commandments. His father was dedicated to idol worship and was willing to kill Abraham in the process; Abraham left the area where he grew up with a desire to become a high priest. His faithfulness preserved his life but also prepared him for future trials and then to receive great blessings on earth and in eternity.

    2. In the next chapter of Mark, Christ teaches his disciples: "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." It's not at all like we are asked to cut off vital parts of our body-- sometimes our entire support systems-- and then suffer that way for the rest of our lives. If we put God first we may still endure some persecutions, but he promises that we will receive greater blessings now and eternal life later. This isn't a thing where it's hard now and we hope something good happens after we die. Things won't always be easy, but good things will happen now.

    3. While we are responsible for eliminating toxic influences, those people who would perpetuate ideas that make people stumble or abandon their faith are also warned in Mark 9. Christ says that, "whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me"-- meaning both the young in age but also the young in faith--
    it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea" (v. 42). The war in heaven was fought over the same issues being battled over today. There are those who claimed to be on the Lord's side at the time and have bodies here on earth but seem to have switched sides. The consequence of their actions as traitors will be worse than if they had rebelled in heaven and been cast out. Thus, it truly would have been better for them if they had never been born.

    Just a few thoughts-- they're free and worth about what you paid for them.