God did not leave us to chance. Photo by Wendy van Zyl.
The Devil’s real,
And doesn’t rest;
So is God,
And God knows best.
It is Saturday (you know, the day right before Sunday) and a member of the bishopric calls and says someone had to back out of speaking in church the next day. He wondered if I could speak? (Can I or will I? I ask…) He says the topic is “blessings of the gospel.” Two days before, I had jotted down some thoughts after watching an interesting documentary on the human brain. My thoughts fit perfectly with the topic. Let me share what insights I had.
First, this program talked about how when you are faced with a temptation you have a choice. You can give in or you can resist. The interesting thing is that depending on which you chose, it stimulates different regions of your brain. Not just that, but actually choosing one or the other creates pathways in your brain. The more often you choose the same path, the stronger and more defined that pathway in your brain becomes.
The second thing I learned was that different parts of your brain develop at different times. The prefrontal cortex part of your brain is responsible for logic, reasoning, complex analysis, and planning. This will come as no surprise to parents of teenagers, but this part of your brain does not even begin developing until adolescence and is not fully developed until the early 20’s. Because this part of the brain is just developing, teens, and especially early teens, make decisions based more off of emotion.
Here is the third thing I learned. There was a study done where a group of participants watched a very emotional video. Half the participants were told to exercise total self-control and keep their emotions in check. The other half was told to let their emotions play out. After the video, all participants were given a physical exercise task to complete. In every case, those who had exerted self-control during the video were physically weaker and under-performed during the post-video activity.
Here is the last thing I learned. In another experiment, participants were hooked up to a machine that measured their skin tension, sweat glands, heart rate, etc. Then they were sat in front of a computer screen that had 4 decks of cards marked A, B, C, and D. They were told that the decks of cards were totally random and each card contained a dollar figure that either added to or subtracted money from an ongoing total. The participants were to click on the decks of cards and try to acquire as much money as they could. What they were not told, is that decks A and C had way more cards that awarded money and decks B and D had more cards that subtracted money. The findings of this experiment showed that it took on average 20 card selections for participants to cognitively realize that decks A and C were better. However, the fascinating finding was that the signs that were being measured from their bodies showed that participants bodies figured out that A and C were the best decks after only 10 clicks—twice as fast.
So what does all this have to do with the blessings of the gospel? After watching this program, I had this revelatory thought. Who already knows all about the brain? Who knows about the subtle and complex inner workings? Who knows about its development. Who knows about the firing and connecting and branching of the synapses. Who knows about the delicate chemical and electrical balances and how they work with the rest of the body? Who already knows more than mortal man will ever know?
Why Satan does, of course. And he is using his vast amount of knowledge and power to damn your soul to hell.
Thankfully, God also knows.
What are the blessings of the gospel? Where Satan would have us give into base desires, God says “Be wise…[and] yield to no temptation.” (Mormon 9:28, D&C 9:13) He wants us to choose the right. Why? Because he knows that doing so consistently builds strong pathways in the brain. Like an athlete with muscle memory, as we continually choose the right we fortify and condition our brain to choose the same in the future.
What are the blessings of the gospel? Where Satan says it’s okay to date and go steady early because he wants you to break the law of chastity, God says don’t date until you are 16 and then don’t pair off exclusive. Why? Because God knows that your mind is still developing and you can’t even think totally logically yet or properly plan for the future.
What are the blessings of the gospel? Where Satan would have us stay up late because he knows after a long day of exercising self-control we are mentally and physically most vulnerable, God says “retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary” and here is the kicker “that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated” (D&C 88:124, italics & bold added).
What are the blessings of the gospel? Where Satan would say if you cannot cognitively, logically make sense of something then it must be false, God says “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost…behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2, italics & bold added). Sometimes we will just know in our hearts that which we cannot solve with our heads.
So what are the blessings of the gospel? The blessings are that God loves us and therefore gives us commandments to protect us and help us return to Him. We may not always know why, but we can be confident that God is vastly wiser and knows what He is doing.
We can trust that God knows best.
Written: September 16, 2017