April 23, 2007, Observation:
Last Thursday evening (April 19, 2007) Jo Anne and I had the privilege and opportunity of speaking at the interfaith Chapel at Chapman University in Orange, California, to a group of faculty and students. Being on a college campus so soon after the Virginia Tech Massacre brought into our minds and hearts most vividly the great tragedy that had occurred in the lives of those young students and some of their professors. We were all still sobered and saddened by what happened at Virginia Tech. Being with these students at Chapman University, we could feel their enthusiasm for life and hopes for the future, as well as sense their great potential, which made what had happened earlier in the week at Virginia Tech all the more heart rendering. That evening at Chapman University, our hearts and prayers went out to the families and friends of those whose young lives were cut short by this senseless act of violence.
I suppose that for many years to come, people will be asking the question why something like this ever had to happen. I have been thinking about this question a great deal this week, and probably don't have any better answer than anybody else, I am sure. However, let me share with you some thoughts that have come into my mind as I have pondered "why."
Years ago, a wonderful English teacher, in trying to teach me how to write, making a thesis statement and then supporting and defending it in each succeeding paragraph, gave me the following statement as an example of a thesis statement: "The history of the world is a bath of blood." It was plain for me then to see how by using that statement as a thesis for an essay, I could easily marshal evidence from history that would substantiate and defend that statement as being very true.
At times I think we may believe we are the only people that have ever experienced terrorist attacks, suicide bombers, senseless murders, and those of us who are older, many major wars where literally millions of people have been killed. Of course, all we need to do is look at the history of this world to realize that from the time Cain killed Abel "the history of the world truly has been a bath of blood." Instead of just focusing on what happened at Virginia Tech, perhaps a question that would put all of mankind's experience on this earth from the beginning of time into perspective, is why has "the history of the world been a bath of blood?"
I am no psychologist or philosopher, and I don't believe they have the answer anyway, because the ultimate answer comes from the Scriptures and is spiritual in nature. As I have pondered the question of man's inhumanity to man from literally the beginning of time, I have concluded that King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon went to the heart and root of the problem better than anyone else ever has.
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." [Mosiah 3:19]
I believe King Benjamin selected his words very carefully in speaking to his people. The natural man is, and has always been, an enemy to God from the very beginning. The natural man, void of the Spirit, can enter a state the Scriptures describe as "past feeling", and which I call a state of "spiritual paralysis". One who is physically paralyzed cannot feel those parts of his body that are paralyzed, and one who is "spiritually paralyzed" cannot feel the still small voice of the Spirit and in that state can do unthinkably horrible things. Nazi Germany became "spiritually paralyzed" as did the Nephites and Lamanites in Book of Mormon times as well as countless other civilizations and people from the beginning of time.
King Benjamin however, gives us the key to overcoming the "natural man." He says that if we will but "yield" to the "enticings" of the Holy Spirit we can put off the natural man. The word "yield" means "to give up and cease resistance or contention." Some synonyms are, surrender, submit, and capitulate. "Enticings" or entice means "to attract artfully or adroitly or by arousing hope or desire." A synonym is the word "lure". Isn't it interesting that skilled fishermen know how to use a "lure" to artfully attract a fish to bite? Then they are able to work the fish until it "yields" or surrenders. The Holy Spirit will not beat us over the head or use any kind of force, but will constantly entice us to yield -- to surrender our pride, arrogance, vanity and lustful desires. As we are willing to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit we can put off the "natural man" and become saints through the atonement of Jesus Christ, possessing the qualities of little children, being: submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love.
I doubt that CNN or politicians will jump on this as the solution to tragedies like the Virginia Tech Massacre, bloodshed and violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hatred and murder between Israelis and Palestinians, etc., but truthfully "putting off the natural man" is the only solution to these kinds of problems. Will this ever happen? Sad to say it won't until the Prince of Peace ushers in his millennial reign. In the meantime, I believe we will continue to see escalating terror, senseless murders, and the nightly news filled with stories of man's inhumanity to man. Those of our generation will come to know only too well the truthfulness that "The history of the world is a bath of blood," because the "natural man" is an enemy to God.
I don't think the Virginia Tech Massacre has anything to do with who has or hasn't guns, or an adequate security system, but it has everything to do with "the natural man" and "spiritual paralysis." Until individuals all over the world are willing to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and become like little children we, as a world population, will be at a constant state of war.
Am I overly simplistic and idealistic? I am sure I am, but I know in my heart the truthfulness of King Benjamin's words as being the only solution to the wickedness and violence in which we live.