“…Jesus…said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick…for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” -Mathew 9:12,13
Back when I was a kid, I loved to watch baseball. I loved to watch the best players in the world throw 100 mph fastballs, or hit 100 mph fastballs, or crank out 4 home runs in one game. Every once in a while, we even got to see an all out brawl because of a well placed pitch right between the batters shoulder blades in retaliation for some perceived slight an inning or two earlier. …Ahhh, the good ‘ole days….
One of the most entertaining players to watch was a guy named Bo Jackson. Now, Bo only played a few seasons, but was one of the best athletes to ever play. He was an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, way before the Royals were cool. Or even remotely good. He also starred as a running back for the Oakland Raiders. He bounced back and forth between professional sports like it was no big deal. He was iconic. And, maybe the best part of all, he had his own cross training shoes that, quite possibly, could be the best shoes ever created in the 90’s.
Bo was famous for his home runs….and his strikeouts. He looked a lot like Dwayne “the Roc” Johnson at the bat if you can imagine. Or like Disney’s Moana playing baseball. He was huge, ripped, shredded, swole, or buff as you might say. Even though he never lifted weights in his life.
He was a good hitter, but he did strike out more than average. He didn’t particularly like striking out, as you can imagine. It frustrated him. It tended to make him angry. We were able to deduce this fact because he would often, after striking out, break his bat over his knee, or his head, on his way back to the dugout. He had a little bit of a mean streak in him. But, his anger management issues, were fun to watch, because snapping a bat over your head, and making that piece of pine look more like a toothpick was totally awesome.
So what does Bo Jackson’s anger issues have anything to do with anything? Well, maybe nothing, but it came to mind this week as I read through a particular chapter in the Book of Mormon. Last Sunday, because of a new calling, I got to sit in a lesson in the Deacons quorum in my ward. The lesson was on the reality of all of us having real problems, and how we all have flaws, and we will make mistakes, and how we have to pick ourselves up and go to the Lord, and make ourselves better because of it. It was awesome.
The chapter that we talked about was 2 Nephi chapter 4. This is one of the best chapters ever. In this chapter, Nephi talks about how even he, Nephi got down on himself becuase of his sins. This is the same guy that never complained about anything, the same guy that made a homemade bow, probably out of sharp rocks, animal sinew, and leftover crow feathers while in the wilderness. Only to then have to fashion his own arrows, even when everyone else, including his prophet father, Lehi, was complaining directly to the Lord about thier sufferings. This was the same Nephi that was willing to make a boat to cross an unfamiliar ocean simply on faith. This same, seemingly flawless Nephi, admits he had struggles with temptations, and sin. He was a normal guy after all!
He explains his thoughts in verses 17-19,
“O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities….I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins…”
Don’t get me wrong, Nephi was one of the most faithful men to ever live on this earth. But it is nice to know that he, just like us, wasn’t perfect. He had struggled to overcome sin. He quickly though, reminds himself, and us by proxy, that there is no reason to dwell on the struggles. And, that remembering the greatness of God, and His ability to lift us out of sin, is our real key to happiness.
He says in verses 20 and 21…
“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh”
He continues in verse 26…
“O then, if I have seen so great things…why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow…?”
Then, and this is the new part that stood out to me yesterday for the first time, Nephi gives us this little glimpse into one of the things he may have struggled with. He explains in verse 27…
“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?”
and again in verse 29…
“Do not anger again because of mine enemies…”
I think we have to look at Nephi’s life as a whole, and wonder how in the world he did it. He continued to be faithful through thick and thin, trial after trial, living on the edge of life threatening situations every single day. He maintained his faithfullness even when his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, tried at every possible moment in time, to make his life completely miserable. They beat him, tied him up several times, mocked him, complained about him, demeaned him, and ultimately tried to kill him. Multiple times. Nephi and his family and others literally had to up and get out of dodge to avoid being murdered by his own brothers. If anyone had the right or reason to be “angry” it would have been Nephi.
So, do I think Nephi had anger management issues? No, I don’t. I don’t think he went all “Bo Jackson” and broke his nice steel bow over his knee after a missed shot at a giant 8
point buck somewhere in the wilderness. It just doesn’t fit. But, I do think he was subject to being a normal human, and having normal human responses to living continuously under the threat of being killed, beaten, mocked, and ridiculed. Some people, unfortunately in this world can relate to that.
And that is the beauty of the scriptures, and of the gospel. Its a real life thing. The stories and principles that we read about in the pages of the Book of Mormon apply to us. Even if the prophets in those stories have flaws and struggle. We all have flaws, and we all struggle. Thats kind of the point. If Nephi struggled with the temptation to be angry, given his circumstances, then its also ok if I struggle sometimes with the same thing.
We all have our things that we need to overcome. Nephi, in this same amazing chapter, finishes it off with his advise on how to recover from those sins, and temptations…
He teaches us in verse 34…
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh”
Then finishes in verse 35..
“Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.”
Nephi, no matter his temptations and sins, looked up to God, and trusted in him. Its as simple as that. Our struggles, our problems, are real. Its simply a part of life. And that’s ok. That is where the beauty of the gospel and the atonement of Christ takes over. Nephi showed us how he did it. He survived by handing everything over to the Lord.
We are all broken or “sick” in some way. Even those who may seem to have it all together, like Nephi. But, lucky for us, the Lord can fix anything. He can heal us no matter how sick we are. He is the great Physician. The more housecalls he makes in our behalf, the better we get to know him, love him, and really appreciate what he does to heal us. And when we allow ourselves to be healed by him, we are changed. And that is how the atonement really works. Maybe we can stop looking at our temptations and sins as weights, and see them more as oppurtunities to be healed by the Great Physician.