Monday, July 11, 2016

Overcoming Blasphemy

by Erin West

The biggest part of developing a pure heart is coming to an understanding of things as they really are. That understanding comes through sincere study, prayer and undergoing a variety of tests or trials. It’s important to connect all of these together and surrender our hearts to the Lord so that we can be changed and receive His own heart.

How many of us are familiar with verses from scripture that teach things along this line?
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men who receive me and repent, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:31)
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)
Growing up I was one of those people who read scriptures and figured that I got the idea of what they were talking about. I didn’t really dive into them and feast on them as I do now. I have to consider myself a complete fool before God when it comes to studying His word. I spend a lot of time looking words up so I can understand what Jesus taught better. As I was studying a topic on talebearing, I came across the scripture from Matthew 12:31 and asked myself, “What does blasphemy really mean?”

To understand this, we need to go back to both Hebrew and Greek words that were translated as “blasphemy.” The root of the Hebrew word translated as “blasphemy” is naats, which means to spurn or treat with contempt. An example of this is given in 1 Nephi:
For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels. (1 Nephi 19:7)
O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. (2 Nephi 9:28)
How do we trample God underfoot and set at naught (declare worthless) the things of God which are of great worth to us? When we look at the proper and literal meanings of the Greek words blasphemia and blasphemeo, it becomes clear how we do this. Both words are a combination of blax (sluggish or slow) and pheme (fame/reputation). Considering their fullest meaning, when we blaspheme, we are sluggish to acknowledge a truly good thing as good, and we do not acknowledge a truly evil thing as evil. Instead, what we really do is we switch things around, putting our relationship with God in peril:
Wo to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter. Wo to those seeing themselves as wise, esteeming themselves as clever. (Isaiah 5:20-21)
This is what blasphemy really is. Thinking that we know better, we trample God’s commandments underfoot by turning around and saying His commandments are evil. We twist (or wrest) His word to justify our own sins. This is injurious to God and grieves Him.

Before I understood this, I didn’t consider myself as a blasphemous individual. However, as I studied, I was shown that I actually was a blasphemer of God. For me, that knowledge was solidified by what many would consider a small, insignificant experience. Recently, I was praying to know what it was Jesus wanted me to do so that I could hear His voice more often and see His face. That answer I got was pretty unexpected: “Get rid of your music.”

We have to backtrack a little bit here to understand my struggle with this command. I admit to being a music addict in the past. It’s not that I listened to anything horrendous (I’m pretty anti-lyric because of what people sing about.) I enjoyed various forms of electronica, classical, folksy Celtic music, and so on. In and of itself it wasn’t bad stuff. What was bad was that I had this playing all the time. It developed into idol worship. I can still remember the music playing, and my heart just aching one day, as if I was experiencing the sadness of someone close by. I was. The Lord was grieved because I had shut Him out through this idolatry. So, I cut back a lot. Admittedly, that was a positive improvement.

However, the Lord was asking for complete abandonment of this idolatry by getting rid of all of my music. However, I fought on it for two days. I insisted that I had done enough as it was. I justified my position, to the point where I insisted that I doubted it was even God asking me to do it (even though I understood well enough it was Him.) I justified my stance before a friend and a family member. I was basically calling the command evil. I esteemed what was from God to be of the devil in a way, and prided myself on my own past works on stamping out my addiction. I figured I’d try a music fast to see if ditching all of my music would prove valuable.

The Lord, being merciful to me, fought back. His responses to my arrogant reasoning went something like this. “Weren’t you just encouraging your husband earlier to hearken quickly to My word? And here you are not doing that with Me now.” Regarding my “music fast” the impression I got was that it was akin to Cain’s sacrifice. It wasn’t what God asked for. Another time I was blog-surfing, I came across a post from The Perfect Day entitled, “Lectures on Faith 2, Part 1: Why Its Absolutely Essential For You to Hearken to God.” When talking to a friend, I was told if the Lord is going to tell me to do something, I needed to do it quickly and completely.

I don’t think you can make this kind of thing up. I realized I was wrong to do what I did. I had blasphemed God by twisting His commandment and saying it wasn’t from Him, or that it wasn’t even Him telling me to do it. So, I got rid of one album, and suddenly things got easier. Everything else of mine followed. I have to be specific here: we still have music in the house. There are things we all enjoy hearing together. At this point, getting rid of all of that would drag others into a sacrifice they weren’t asked to be a part of. What went was everything that only I would listen to. I prayed to God, and sought His forgiveness for what I’d done. The response I got was unforgettable, “You did the right thing, and I forgive you.”

Since then I don’t listen to music a whole lot, and have learned to replace listening time with more pondering and study. I don’t want to spurn God’s commandments, and call them evil. I know He’ll give me more practice with this in the days ahead. At the moment I think His objective is to teach me to judge appropriately, as outlined in Moroni 7, and to test me to see if I really meant what I said some time ago when I told Him I had laid everything on the altar for Him to choose.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)

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