In the last few decades a curious learning disability has been defined and given the title dyslexia. It has been found that individuals suffering its effects often perceive letter and word sequence in reverse. Even the plainest and simplest of statements can become frustrating puzzles to these otherwise bright people. Children so afflicted will often exhibit dysfunctional, self-defeating behaviors symptomatic of this underlying frustration and inability to understand.
I propose that many Latter-day Saints are spiritually dyslexic. The symptoms of this "dis-order" (literally) and the "dis-ease" it causes vary among us in outward severity and yet spring from the same genesis: this tendency to reverse the order of the written and spoken word of God. Thus we "have eyes to see, and see not . . . ears to hear and hear not" (Ezekiel 12:2).
Stricken with this disorder of perception, we, like ancient Israel, find the gospel neither easy nor simple (1 Nephi 17:41). Instead, we are frustrated and bewildered, wandering in a modern wilderness of stress, anxiety, discouragement and depression. Only occasionally do we glimpse the promised land of joy and peace that is potentially ours. Like those ancient (adult) children of Israel, we too cling to a dyslexic solution. Reversing the order of these words, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6), we act as if they teach us that the "letter," the outward activity, "giveth life." We desperately try to alleviate our disease by escalating and intensifying our performances and seeking to improve our appearances.
In Moroni 10:32 is yet another example of a mystery of godliness veiled, not in God's delivery, but in our dyslexic perception. Though it plainly states "come unto Christ, and be perfected in him," before it continues with the otherwise impossible charge to "deny yourselves of all ungodliness," most Latter-day Saints perceive and believe thusly: "Deny yourselves of all ungodliness and [then] come unto Christ." Having read it in that order, we launch off on a campaign of self-improvement, sincerely striving, knuckles white, to deny ourselves of all ungodliness. With set jaw and a countenance that would scare a child (and often does), we set about to "clean house," ourselves, meanwhile ignoring the gentle knock of Him who is like "a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap" (3 Nephi 24:2).
HEARING KING BENJAMIN’S PLEA AND (THEN) HIS PROMISES
Read in the correct order, we find that Mosiah 4:6-16 contains one of the purest and most powerful summaries in all sacred writ of how putting ourselves in proper relationship to our Savior can bring results that we could never hope to accomplish by our own unaided will power. Meanwhile, I propose that to misread and inadvertently reverse the order of what King Benjamin teaches in this chapter is as spiritually devastating as comprehending it correctly is exalting. To focus on the circumstances described in vs. 12-16—trying to make them happen before giving our whole heart to the relationship with God summarized in vs 6-11 is the spiritual equivalent of reversing the very process of exaltation. It is to put the cart before the horse, the destination before the journey, the gift before the Giver.
MANDATE OR PROMISE?
For example, how many of you, like me, have sat in a lesson on parenting and had someone rehearse the words of Mosiah 4:14 out of context? "And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another . . ."
Then, with those infamous words (that become more infamous the more kids you have) still ringing in your ears, you drive home with a van full of children who can't make it out of the parking lot before World War III erupts. As each discordant sound falls on your ears, this seemingly impossible mandate falls on your head like a pile driver- driving your sense of pleasing God ever further from you and you ever further from Him. You feel confused, befuddled, discouraged, or you feel frustrated, angry, determined to force this unrighteous behavior to cease. In confusion we are left to wonder, "Why would God give us such an impossible mandate and then call His gospel the `good news'?" Honestly, we find better news on television or in the Sunday newspaper. No wonder we spend the rest of the Sabbath day studying them instead of any more scriptures.
It is my testimony that the gospel, if read in the correct order, is always good news! To all my fellow beleaguered and bewildered parents I bring glad tidings of great joy. I'm about to share with you how God, having healed my spiritual dyslexia, gave me not only eyes to see, but also ears to ear and a heart to understand (Mosiah 2:9). With this understanding both God and King Benjamin were transformed from stern task-masters to my greatest benefactors and friends.
When read in context, Mosiah 4:14 is not a mandate or a command; it is actually a promise!! No wonder it seems impossible by our finite, mortal understanding! God's promises usually are: manna from heaven, life after death, garments washed white in blood.
ALL THINGS FALL INTO PLACE
I would like to propose that King Benjamin’s words in Mosiah 4:12-16 are promised results that will begin to happen automatically if we are willing to put all our effort into establishing and developing the relationship outlined in vs 6-11. How can I make such a bold statement? I am in good company. Recently, President Benson repeated the same message to us: "When we put God first in our lives, all other things fall into their proper place, or drop out of our lives" (President Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1988, italics added).
Notice the words "fall into their proper place." Feel the easiness and simpleness of the way. The gospel, when approached in the right order, can be successfully lived, and with such a lack of struggle as to seem like it's happening automatically. (Notice I didn't say effortlessly.) To live correct principles takes great effort on our part, most certainly--the effort of overcoming pride and self-will; the effort of seeking to know and then trust God's will for us above our own.
"FOR WE BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST"
Before we review the summary King Benjamin is going to give us of what our correct attitude and relationship with God needs to be in Mosiah 4:6-11, upon which he promises such amazing changes in our hearts and in our lives, lives in vs. 12-16, let’s remember the context of this scene. In Mosiah 2 and Mosiah 3 this aged prophet-king has been giving his beloved people his final counsel and blessing, admonishing them in no uncertain terms to remember their own “nothingness” without God. He all but begs them to remember that no matter how hard they try to earn God’s blessings and favor, it will never be enough—that it is impossible to ever be “worthy” in the sense of meriting or deserving what God gives them, because it can’t be done. The truth is we will always love God, as the Apostle John put it, “because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19.) His kindness to us will eternally out-weigh and out-strip our effort to “measure up.” And it is in this degree of awakening to their own need for specifically for a Savior (even though they are already the equivalent of active, believing, practicing members of “the Church” in their day) that has brought these people into the very depths of humility.