Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Heart of Understanding. Knowledge and Wisdom

This is the last post of an unexpected series that began in Elder's Quorum and all began with asking the Quorum whether LDS conference talks are scripture.

Last installment went through a letter from Joseph Smith that President Nelson footnoted as part of a promise of God pouring down power and blessings.  Joseph's teachings differ a bit and I found his teachings to be very personally impactful. Ideas flooded my mind and light grew and this post has some of the things it led me to. That letter as much as anything else has helped me understand more of Joseph Smith's heart.  The prior post was about what Joseph tied to getting knowledge from the Holy Spirit.  That led to the thought that knowledge helps correct our understanding.  Continuing on that note.

Back to a comment found both in the Lord's words to Joseph Smith and in the New Testament:
JSH 19. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.
Matthew 15:8. This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
When scriptures speak of hearts not being right (hard, far from God, wicked) that may include having unkind feelings towards others, but more likely it’s dealing with having the wrong understanding.  Termed "unbelief" in the Book of Mormon.  I tried to leave off our cultural understanding of the heart and just let the scriptures inform me, and what I found was helpful. The scriptures don’t always connect the heart to feelings.  There’s more to the heart than feelings. And feelings involve way more of the body than just the heart. In my experience trying to regulate your own feelings is often much less successful than getting better knowledge and understanding to inform our feelings. 

What dawned on me is if  the heart is viewed as the seat of understanding (see here, pg 9 footnote 20) many scriptures suddenly become much more clear.  And appear to have been saying certain things all along.

Those passages above were directed at religious people. The incorrect (religious) understanding is what is causing the heart to be distant from God. That damning understanding that “hardens” the heart and leads to us doing awful things to each other, and worshiping false gods.  That’s the enemy.  Ignorance is the enemy.  False and damning lies and teachings. That and the people who teach them cause distance from God.  When the lies are exposed people sometimes turn to apathy, and or atheism as the whole thing comes crashing down leaving the heart empty and with little warmth. I don’t want distance from God for me or anyone else. So I must speak up.

A hard heart can’t take anything inside.  It's the opposite of a little child. Opposite of sober.  When our hearts are far from God our understanding is “impenetrable".  That isn't safe.  Even if it appears to offer safety from foreign or seemingly threatening new ideas and understanding. Truth is it's safer to be humble, meek, and open to God.

The Book of Mormon has this to say about impenetrable understanding.  Or a hard heart.
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord. And how long doth he suffer with his people. Yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men, for they will not seek Wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them. Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.
The wrong understanding will obviously cause bad feelings and problems and issues and envy, jarring, contention and stuff that prevents Zion.  Those things may in fact come from a faulty understanding.  After talking about refusing to be ruled by Wisdom the verse above likens it to a flock who fleeth and scattereth.  As opposed to gathers. Zion involves gathering. Not scattering. The hen who gathers her chicks under her wings in scripture is also related feminine imagery (3 Nephi 10:3-7). So rather than being gathered in the safety of the hen's wings, impenetrable understanding results in being called "wild" (wild fruit from Jacob 5) and being scattered and devoured by beasts.  Devour is to quickly eat, consume, or engulf.  How many people are engulfed by anger or jealousy? Or engulfed by some other beast.  That's what happens. The beasts quickly engulf you.  We should not flee the Shepherd, and instead seek and welcome Wisdom and the healing wings offered to us.

So on that note, the verse just quoted says the children of men will not seek Wisdom and don't desire that she should rule over them.  Suppose we permanently reverse that course and seek what Wisdom has to say about hearts and understanding. Turns out there are some real gems.

Here's what some Proverbs have to say.  These are just a few examples. Understanding and hearts go together frequently in the book of Proverbs.

  1. Proverbs: 15:14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

    Seeking knowledge (open heart) fits perfect with what Joseph said in the letter from last post.  Oh and then this part: Mouth of fools feeding on foolishness. That is an image worth a thousand words. Picture people just eating up religious stupidity.  It's nonsense, but they can't get enough of it. They think the garbage is spiritual food so they feed on it.

    1. Proverbs 2:1-6

      My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
      2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
      3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
      4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
      5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
      6 For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding
      .

    These are beautiful, why don't LDS folks or conference talks quote proverbs more often?  They have a theme which connects knowledge, hearts, and understanding together that is not found elsewhere.    

    1. Proverbs 3:3-6
    2. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
      5 ¶ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
      6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

    Heart and understanding again are linked. Vs 3 and writing on the tables (records) of the heart connects to a prophecy to the House of Israel from Jeremiah and Ezekiel that also deals with our heart. Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.  Consider God writing His law on the fleshly parts of the heart, not on tablets of stone. (Law of Moses - tablets of stone, stony hearts... )

    Jeremiah 31:
    31 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. 
    Ezekiel 36:
    25 ¶ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
    These prophecies are worth reading more than once.  There're more beyond what I've quoted . Vs 32 of Ezekial 36 ought to give pause in connection to T&C 157:19  We need a new heart. It's a new understanding, filled with light, knowledge, new clarity, intelligence.  Not really an emotional shower, although some folks could use that too. I believe feelings will change as understanding changes.

    1. Proverbs 8:4-5 
    1. 4 Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
      5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

    Simple is something Joseph mentioned too.  Our Heavenly parents call and offer their voice to us to end the foolishness.

    Laman and Lemuel use interesting phrases in the Book of Mormon.
    "And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words..." (1 Ne. 17:22).
    Their vocabulary hits home a little bit doesn't it?  "we know" and "wherefore we know".  They "knew" their church was true in some regards and "knew" the people were righteous.

    In LDS culture the more intense the feeling attached to a belief the more LDS folks are likely to call it “knowledge”. I “know the church is true”, "I know ____ is a Prophet of God". But what understanding accompanies that knowledge?  Any?  Is it just strong sentiment?  Part of our growth is to start with belief as we move towards knowledge.  I'm not criticizing a newly sprouted belief and associated feelings.  Our lips however do say the wrong words sometimes.  We say we "know" when we probably mean we have a belief and some strong feelings.  But since we call it knowledge I think we tend to stop there since it appears to be the sine qua non of the whole Gospel.  So in all this talk of what we say with our lips I’m not opposed to our lips saying things in a more accurate way.

    Speaking of justifying knowledge by keeping the Law of Moses. This is Abinadi preaching to King Noah and wicked priests who also thought themselves as the good guys because of the Law of Moses.  Here too understanding is connected to the heart.

    Mosiah 12:26-29
    26 I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord! For if ye understand these things ye have not taught them; therefore, ye have perverted the ways of the Lord. 27 Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise. Therefore, what teach ye this people? 28 And they said: We teach the law of Moses. 29 And again he said unto them: If ye teach the law of Moses why do ye not keep it? Why do ye set your hearts upon riches? Why do ye commit whoredoms and spend your strength with harlots, yea, and cause this people to commit sin, that the Lord has cause to send me to prophesy against this people, yea, even a great evil against this people?
    They hadn't applied their hearts to understanding although they claimed to be teaching the Law of Moses.  So they had some facts, some religious rituals, some religious rules and they followed them to some degree.  They taught it to the people. But they didn't understand them. And meanwhile they were up to no good.  Does that ever happen today?  Do we have religious rituals, rules, facts and stuff that we go through but have no clue what they mean (or what they were intended to accomplish)?  Do riches rule the day?  Is there any time and energy and money spent covering up sexual misconduct?

    Here are a few more scriptures that teach about the heart and it's connection to understanding, rather than just feelings.

    Mosiah 26:1-3
    1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
    This verse troubles me on many levels.  The rising generation's unbelief and incorrect understandings hardened the heart.  I don't know if this was a failure of the parents to teach the kids, or if the kids simply rejected their parents traditions which traditions came from their firsthand experience with King Benjamin's sermon. The record doesn't say. What it does say is unbelief makes it so you can't understand the word of God. So the result is your heart suffers.

    Alma 10:25
    25 But Amulek stretched forth his hand, and cried the mightier unto them, saying: O ye wicked and perverse generation, why hath Satan got such great hold upon your hearts? Why will ye yield yourselves unto him that he may have power over you, to blind your eyes, that ye will not understand the words which are spoken, according to their truth?
    Mosiah 13:32  This is back to Abinadi:
    32 And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
    No man saved except it were through the redemption of God.  That's the part they didn't understand.  So how did they think they were going to be saved if not through the redemption of God? By the law and performances and ordinances.  Seems the law has no value if it's not understood. We do need that new heart that Ezekiel prophesied about.

    2 Nephi 16:10
    10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed.
    Understand with their hearts it says.  This matches the heart being the seat of understanding.

    3 Nephi 19: 33-34
    33 And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.34 Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.
    Their hearts opened, and then did understand in their hearts.  Was this mere sentiment in their heart?  I don't think so.  This is understanding of God. Comprehension.  Don't get me wrong, there were probably enormous waves of feeling too.  Weeping and being overcome are part of scriptural accounts of what occurs.  That's there too.  I'm just pointing out the "understanding" connection to the heart. 

    Mosiah 2:9
    9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.
    Samuel 16:7

    In the Old Testament, following the spiritual fall of King Saul, Samuel the prophet was led to the house of Jesse in his search for Israel’s new king. The Lord said this regarding one of the sons, Eliab:
    7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
    If the heart is the seat of understanding then the Lord wouldn’t so much be looking upon the emotional center of the person.  He would more be looking at their understanding, their openness, the softness of the heart whether they seek, ask and knock and are humble.

    I think it's safe to say that scriptures teach our heart connects to our understanding.  The cure for hearts not being right seems to me is a better understanding!  A broken heart. Meaning the understanding is open, the person is seeking, there is recognition of the gaps in understanding and there are openings into which God can come in. Yeah you may feel crappy too, but maybe the point of that was to disrupt the prior erroneous understanding so something new can come in.  We need soft hearts, open hearts, broken hearts. So knowledge and Wisdom can enter in and give us a new heart. This all makes me want to seek their heart. To be of one heart with Them.  

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