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The Carnal Mind

In 2 Nephi 9:39, we read:

“…remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one.  Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.

I have always thought of  carnal as a word referring to people or actions that are very wicked.  However, Webster’s defines it as “relating to or given to crude bodily pleasures and appetites”.  With that definition, “carnally-minded” could refer to anyone who is focused on feeding the physical appetites of the body, rather than focusing on the spirit.  I’m afraid that might be me!  There have been many times in my life that I have thought I was focusing on feeding my spirit, but as I look back, I can see that  I was also trying to work my way to heaven, and because of the stress induced by that endeavor, I was over-eating, over-sleeping, over-spending or over-controlling.  If my bodily appetites are out of control, then is it even possible to be feeding my spirit anything of real worth?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of change and have identified two areas where I have been very “carnally-minded”.  The first is in my food addiction.  In the past 3 or 4 weeks, I have been paying very close attention to my eating habits.  I haven’t been trying to change them, just trying to identify the reasons behind putting food in my mouth. I have discovered that I am pretty disconnected to my body.  As a matter of fact, I rarely feel hunger in my stomach.  Instead, I know I need to nourish my system when I start feeling light-headed and can no longer function.  I can go an entire day without putting anything in my mouth and never even think about it.  However, when I have a situation that triggers strong emotions, I am suddenly starving!  My stomach hurts and I feel desperate for food.  It doesn’t matter how long it has been since I last ate, I need food!  Just last Sunday, a situation arose that was very difficult for me.  Just moments later, I found myself staring into the refrigerator, looking for something that might make the pain in my stomach go away.  As I stood there, I realized that I had just eaten lunch 2 hours earlier.  I wasn’t hungry, I was anxious and overwhelmed.  The feeling in my stomach was nervousness and anxiety.  I walked away from the fridge and spent some time journaling instead.  Amazingly enough, the “hunger” pains went away.  By paying attention to my emotions and taking care of my spirit, I was able to overcome the urge to be “carnally-minded”, focusing only on “bodily pleasures and appetites”.

The second area I need to improve in is having unconditional love for the people around me, particularly my husband and children.  I am just beginning to understand what that means.  I have been taught my whole life about charity and Christ-like love, but I haven’t ever understood what it was until very recently.  My modality for interacting with other people has always been to love and accept them as long as they are doing things I approve of, but as soon as their actions become offensive to me or no longer mesh with my belief system, I withdraw.  It has been a pretty effective way to control the environment in which I live.  The problem: I’ve made those close to me miserable.  With each situation I tried to control, I took away a piece of their agency…and that has caused a lot of  resentment and anger.  Could it be that this is “carnally-minded”, too?  Afterall, my concern has not been with the spiritual well-being of myself or others, but rather with my “bodily pleasures or appetites”.  I have wanted to be comfortable and was willing to do anything to make it so, even harm those that I love.  It is a hard thing to swallow, but I’m afraid it is true.

As I began pondering the concept of unconditional love, a situation arose for me to put my new found knowledge into action.  On Christmas Day, my son made an announcement that goes against everything I believe.  As I watch him throw out all of the things I have taught him and see him change right before my eyes into a person I don’t know, my inclination is to turn away.  But I don’t want to lose my son. And I want him to know that I love him no matter who he becomes.  For me, ignoring the outward things that make me uncomfortable and just loving the person he is inside is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done.  It certainly isn’t what I was trained to do.  But isn’t that what the Savior does for me?   He loves and accepts me for who I am even when He doesn’t like what I do.  His atonement is all about giving me agency to choose while still allowing me the opportunity to return to my Heavenly Father as a pure individual.  I think I am experiencing just a taste of the love the Savior feels for me as He watches me make choices with the potential to destroy my life.  He doesn’t try to stop me.  He doesn’t withdraw His love.  He doesn’t get angry or try to force me to choose a different path.  Instead, He allows me to use the agency He gave me and loves me no matter what.

Learning to love unconditionally is certainly one way to combat the carnal mind and become “spiritually-minded”.  I know it isn’t going to be easy, but that is the journey I’m on.

I can only hope that He will be there to guide me along the way.

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