Our Own Reality- Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

COMMENTARY

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Some of us believe that the company we keep won’t affect who we are, neither the media we consume, nor the interests we pursue. We believe that we can give an ear to corrupt minds, yet still retain our pure convictions. We believe that we can take mixed entertainment, yet look past the depravity that comes with it. After all, Jesus was a companion of sinners, wasn’t he? And he still retained all of his morals, didn’t he?
That is true…but also Jesus never succumbed to temptation, a feat that none of us can claim. Also there is quite a difference between lifting those in the world versus being a part of that world.
The simple truth is that we are far less impervious to our surroundings than we might imagine. For better and worse, the environment we dwell in does become a part of us. You might not be paranoid now, but spend your time researching conspiracy theories, and sooner or later you’ll start to believe them. You might not feel very spiritual now, but spend your time among the devout, and sooner or later you’ll start seeing the hand of God around you.
Thus a thin man might eat a fatty meal one day and look himself in the mirror and say “I am still thin…clearly fatty food has no effect on me.” Or an obese man might eat a lean meal and also see no effect. But if they continue with it over time, gradually the fat will become the first man and the lean will become the second. For reality becomes our repeated experience.

Our Own Reality- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Mark 7:21-23

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

COMMENTARY

Charity suffereth long, and is kind, rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, wickedness, deceit, all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
That which is within us comes out. If we are filled with defilement then we frame the world with evil thoughts and act in selfishness for our own gain. But if we are filled with charity then we frame the world with hope and act with kindness. If we are filled with corruption we will see all around us as corrupted. But if we are filled with love we will see all around us as beautiful.
In either case, the reality we perceive is merely the outward manifestation of who we are within. Thus the way we view the world says much more about ourselves than it does about the world.

Our Own Reality- 1 Kings 12:6-7, 13-14

And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;
And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

COMMENTARY

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him
Rehoboam had a choice for what sort of king he was going to be. He sought counsel from two parties for how to present himself to his subjects, and received two different versions of the image he could bear. Ultimately he choose to fashion himself after the more foolish counsel, and lost the majority of his kingdom as a result.
Each of us likes to think that we are strictly in charge of our own formation. We believe we are impervious to advertisements and social pressures, that we make up our own mind and no one has a hold on us. But, frankly, that belief ignores the reality of our nature. We are beings that are composed of what we consume, and what we choose to fill ourselves with will then become what comes out of us after.
So if you spend all your time among any particular group, eventually their outlook will rub off on you. Rehoboam was naturally more inclined to side with those that he had spent his youth with. He framed his reality from the environment he had shared with them, even though it meant taking a stance that was so obviously foolish.

Our Own Reality- Isaiah 28:9-10, 2 Nephi 26:22

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, forever.

COMMENTARY

Precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
And he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords
Though they are opposite in their intentions, both God and the Devil have learned the art of subtlety. God knows that milk must come before meat in conversion to the gospel, and Satan knows that small indiscretions must precede serious sin when damning a soul.
The gradual change that is effected by each is to transform our perceived reality. They entice us to small actions that make us grow more tender or more callous in our perspective, make us shift our priorities, make us live a different lifestyle.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that our lens of reality is unchanging. But it is not. It changes, it just does so very slowly. We have all had friends and families who were once a certain way, but then transformed to the opposite. Our friends and family might say that we have done the same. Perhaps for the better, perhaps for the worse. But in either case, that change most often comes slowly, almost imperceptibly.
Thus we are very wise and forward-thinking if we not only ask ourselves what our beliefs are now, but also consider how our small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors today will change those beliefs over time. Thus the thoughtful cynic can choose practices which will slowly give him a more hopeful heart, while the thoughtless optimist might be duped into adopting practices which slowly give him a jaded outlook.

Our Own Reality- Matthew 6:24, 1 Kings 18:21

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

COMMENTARY

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other
Previously we considered Pharaoh, who wanted the God of the Hebrews to give him reprieve, but also wanted to maintain his control over the Hebrew slaves in direct defiance to that God. As the famous saying goes, though, you cannot ride two horses. If you try, you will only tear yourself, which, tragically is exactly what happened to Pharaoh. By trying to have his cake and eat it, too, he lost his firstborn child.
Many men and women lose the most precious things by trying to clutch to two opposing realities at the same time. Powerful addictions, in fact, often stem from a division of the soul, one where a person genuinely believes in a greater good, and professes it loudly, yet secretly lives a lesser evil on the side. A wedge is gradually driven into the heart, pressing deeper and deeper, until eventually things start to break.

How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: if Baal, follow him.
Each of us only has room for one reality and one master. It is simply not in our nature to thrive so long as we are divided against ourselves. Thus each one of us must choose which reality we will embrace, and then embrace it with all our hearts, letting go of all the rest.

Our Own Reality- Exodus 8:25, 28, 30-32

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
Only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
And Moses went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the Lord.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

COMMENTARY

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.
And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Pharaoh was a man who constantly bounced between the fear of God and an insistence to have his own way. When Moses first demanded that Pharaoh let the Israelites go he countered by having his own priests replicate the miracles being shown to him. Rather than accept the sovereignty of Jehovah, he was able to still rely on his own gods.
But then things began to escalate. Plagues arose that his priests could not counter nor reproduce. Having no alternative, he was forced to accept the reality that the Hebrew God was the only one who could be entreated for relief. And so he relented, in order that he could get the reprieve he desired.
But though he had come to accept a new reality in his mind, he was not converted to it in his heart. Rather he tested the Lord’s patience by recanting his promises, refusing to let the Israelites go, even after he had said that they could.
Yesterday we considered how we can be reluctant to fully embrace the reality that is staring us right in the face. Pharaoh is an excellent example of this. Like him, sometimes we try to have our cake and eat it, too. We point to God’s reality with one hand, but also hold to our own reality with the other. Of course things didn’t work out very well for Pharaoh when he tried this, and it won’t work for us either.

Our Own Reality- How Many Ribs?

One day I had a conversation with my wife, and in passing I mentioned the different number of ribs between men and women. She asked me what I was talking about, and I said “oh, you know, how men have one less rib than women do.” She smiled and told me that that wasn’t true, and a quick Google search confirmed that she was right.

And to be honest, I don’t remember how that notion ever got into my head to begin with. I assume it was some childhood misunderstanding based on the story of Eve being made from one of Adam’s ribs. The idea took hold, was never challenged (I mean, how often do you really talk out loud about how many ribs people have?), and so I never critically considered whether it was true or not.

It’s an embarrassing story I suppose, but I thought it worth sharing, as I learned an important lesson about human nature from it. It was a firsthand experience of how we intensely desire to hold onto our notion of reality, even when it is clearly flawed.

Because, you see, when my wife corrected me I felt like I would rather die than admit I was wrong. Even when the internet search backed up her claims, I didn’t want to believe the evidence I was seeing. Though it was irrational, I wanted to maintain that my reality was the right one and she and the rest of the world were still wrong. To be clear, I didn’t maintain that stance, but I wanted to.

And I don’t think I’m too unique in that. Many people exhibit that same desire to be right, even when it’s clear they’re not right. I have known people that repeat the same destructive behavior over and over, all while maintaining that things will work out better this time. I have known people that remain in toxic relationships, all while spinning a story about how things really aren’t so bad. I have known people who stay away from loved ones because they aren’t willing to admit that they were the one in the wrong.

So yes, It is actually very common for us to fabricate our own realities, deluded as they are, and hold firmly to them no matter what. Even when we know that they are wrong, it is hard to let them go. Even when we know what the actual truth is, it is easier to keep living the lie.

Our Own Reality- The Fifty-Two United States of America

I once spent two years in a country that was foreign to me. While I was there I encountered a bizarre example of misinformation several times, where the locals were convinced that the United States of America had fifty-two states.

Whenever I encountered this belief I tried to convince them that there were still only fifty states, but to no avail. I mentioned that there were several territories that were also a part of the USA, and that perhaps they had been hearing about a couple of those? They insisted not, it was two full-fledged states had just recently been added, and perhaps I hadn’t heard about it yet. I said that two states were added a few decades ago (Alaska and Hawaii), bringing it from forty-eight to fifty, perhaps they had heard about that and thought it was a recent event? They said no, they were sure. It was fifty before, plus two more, now fifty-two.

In the end it didn’t matter very much. I don’t feel personally offended if someone thinks there are two more states to my country than there actually are. Eventually I just stopped discussing the matter altogether.

It was a curious lesson in human nature, though. It did not matter that I was a native of the United States of America, a citizen that had been educated in its history and geography for years, and was being kept abreast of current events. For though I was a local in the USA, in this land I was the foreigner, and thus my perspective was suspect. In a case of he-said-she-said, we tend to side with the individual that we are personally closer to, regardless of whether their stance is as well-founded as the other.

And I have no delusions about the fact that my own opinions and beliefs are also molded by my culture’s biases. I am sure there are many things that I take as a matter of fact, which are absolutely wrong. In fact, I have a personal example of how I came to be corrected in one of those misconceptions just a few years ago. I’ll share that, and the lessons that I learned from it, tomorrow.

Our Own Reality- 2 Kings 6:14-17, Numbers 22:31-33

Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
And the angel of the Lord said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.

COMMENTARY

And the Lord opened the eyes of the man; and he saw: and the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha
Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand
If we cannot see the divine reality around us, then the behavior of those that do might seem like insanity. Like a prophet who has no care for the armies assembled against him, or a donkey that repeatedly turns from its path. It can be easy to only accept the worldly reality that we physically perceive, observe that the behavior of those who are spiritual are not in harmony with that reality, and simply reject them out of hand.
But of course, if the spiritual are observing another real reality, then it is our behavior that is then erratic and insane.
To be sure, there are such things as mirages and false paradigms and genuine insanity. There are perceived realities that others others hold which are not real. We should not believe every report that we are given. But we should be humble enough to suppose that we might not see everything as it really is. We should be open to the idea that perhaps we still have a need for our eyes to be opened.

Our Own Reality- Alma 18:24-30, 33

And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.
And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?
And he said, Yea.
And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?
And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.
And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.
And king Lamoni said: I believe all these things which thou hast spoken. Art thou sent from God?

COMMENTARY

And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.
Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.
Previously we considered the example of King Agrippa, who was “almost” converted by the testimony of Paul. Here we see the example of another king taught by a missionary: King Lamoni.
King Lamoni was very ignorant of the gospel being shared with him, even of its most basic tenets. His reality up to this point had been very different from what Ammon was teaching, and for each of us it is far easier to hold to the realities we already have than to let go and embrace something new. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest after all.

And king Lamoni said: I believe all these things which thou hast spoken.
Yet it is possible to change or paradigms. Sometimes a new philosophy strikes our hearts as simply being too true to deny. Sometimes our prior perspectives bring us to rock bottom, and we have to enact an intervention just to survive.
For whatever reason, King Lamoni was ready to embrace the new gospel being shared with him. No matter how strange or alien it must have sounded, he felt the truth of it nonetheless. In his quiet simplicity he was willing to do what King Agrippa was not.