How many of you have ever tried to lose weight?
It’s super hard, but when you succeed, there is no greater feeling. Sin is like extra weight on our spirits that makes us lazy, slothful, and apathetic. But shedding the weight of sin can bring us no greater joy.
In the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 17 particularly) Nephi talks about the children of Israel, and how the Lord “did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye (Laman and Lemuel) have.”
In Merriam-Webster Dictionary, straiten means: to make narrow; to hem in; confine; to restrict in freedom or scope; hamper; to subject to distress, privation.
When the Lord did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod, it could mean He hemmed them in through trials. He confined them into a smaller space to restrict their freedom. He subjected them to distress and privation to help bring them back to the straight path that led back to Him. In verse 41, Nephi tells them the Bible story of how the fiery serpents were sent among the children of Israel.
and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.
The Lord forced them into a scenario where they had to make one of two choices:
- Look to God and live, or
- Be stubborn and die.
Just like God gave the children of Israel a way to be saved from their serpent bites, He provides a way for us to be healed as well when adversity comes our way. The umbrella salve is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
In nature, my brother taught me that where there is a poisonous plant, there also grows nearby the antidote for it (if you know what to look for). Jewel weed grows near poison ivy, and can be used to relieve its effects. Crushing the horsetail plant juices or rubbing the leaves of the dock plant onto a stinging nettle burn can relieve its itch and sting as well.
This is how it is in life. God never forsakes us. Where there is a way to be hurt or ‘bit’ by the serpent…God provides the cure to save us from the adversary’s power. All we have to do is LOOK UP, and Jesus Christ will save and heal us from all ‘serpent bites.’
Do we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the cure seems too simple though?
Just pray and repent?
That’s too easy. It won’t work for my sins.
We discount God’s counsel from His prophets because they seem too naïve or simple-minded to bring about such great blessings.
It’s easy to look at the world and think that following God’s commandments will limit our freedom and happiness.
But the opposite is true.
In verse 45, Nephi chastises his brothers and gives a warning to us all:
“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God.”
A couple of years ago, I worked hard to lose weight. It took over a year for me to lose 20 pounds. A whole year! Granted, I did it slowly, trying to make lifestyle changes so I would keep it off.
Ounce by hard ounce, I slowly lost poundage. I felt so happy when I lost 5…then eventually 10 pounds. When I lost 15 pounds, I wanted to buy a whole new wardrobe, but I kept working, and lost even more. I felt great. Energized. Pretty. Confident. I had done a hard thing…and triumphed.
But then my family went on vacation to Disneyland. Awesome, right? We walked so many miles each day that I didn’t worry about what I ate, and I enjoyed the culinary delights there a little more than I probably should have. It had taken me a year to lose 20 pounds. But in only a week, I gained 8 of those back.
That is kind of like sin. Nephi told his brothers that they were quick to do iniquity. And I was quick to put on weight.
When I returned from my trip, I struggled to eat right again and exercise and over three months, I managed to lose only 3 of those stubborn pounds. Urgh!
Unnecessary weight is like sin. It is swift to come back on if we aren’t diligent in following a healthy lifestyle. With our spiritual self, we must be wise about what we take into our bodies and minds, and exercise our spirits by studying God’s words and praying regularly. It takes desire, time, effort, and perseverance.
That’s why it’s good not to fall off the wagon, so to say. The world might say, “Oh, sin a little. It won’t matter.” But just like my weight…it does matter. A lot!
It takes lots of work and time to build our faith strong enough to turn fully to the Lord. It takes lots of humility to live worthy to have the Holy Ghost with us to help make righteous decisions and choices that lead to repentance, which enables the Atoning power of Jesus Christ to take our unwanted sins from us. We won’t shed sinful poundage without our Savior.
The danger in sinning is that it puts unwanted weight on our spirits, which can turn us into spiritual sloths. Boo! We don’t have the energy or will to want to repent. And that is very dangerous.
When we sin and have overweight spirits, our hearts harden. Nothing gets through our clogged spiritual arteries, and we are past feeling. The Holy Ghost can’t touch our hearts and feed our souls because we are too lazy to move forward and repent.
This last General Conference, the prophets gave lots of counsel and suggestions on ways to lose spiritual weight and shed our sinful natures. Praying and working on their counsel one goal at a time can help us feel the Spirit, which will make us more energetic in serving God and building His kingdom.
We will feel His peace and His joy.
All the work and effort required of us will be totally worth it in the end when our spirits are healthy. That is a promise from God…and He always keeps His word.