Helaman 14:10 — LeGrand Baker — ‘because I am a Lamanite’
10 And now, because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.
No doubt, Samuel the Lamanite was correct in his analysis of their assessment of him. It is common for people to put people unlike themselves in the disdainful category of the “others,” and then not bother to consider them as individuals. We see the same sort of thing when Philip told Nathanael about Jesus. Later Jesus paid Nathanael the ultimate compliment when “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!.” But before Jesus said that about Nathanael, Nathanael asked Philip, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:47 & 46)
It is apparent that Nathanael’s prejudice was a learned cultural response, because he abandoned it without hesitation.
We might also assign the Nephite’s reaction to Samuel’s prophecy as cultural prejudice were it not for the rocks and arrows they shot at him. Their’s was something much more severe than Nathanael’s. Jesus spoke of the Nephite’s kind of prejudice when he prayed to his Father in behalf of the Twelve: “ I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14).”
Prejudice (or something akin to it) can have the positive purpose of warning us to stay away from dangerous or unpleasant situations. However, unthinking prejudice can cripple our sensitivities. Blind prejudice is to potential friendships what misapplied Round Up is to a flower garden. It causes fear or anger to penetrate our souls just as the misapplied weed killer penetrates into soil and destroys even the potential life of individual flowers.
Prejudice is putting people in categories, ignoring them as individual, but disdaining or even hating them because of the categories we have put them in. It destroys the possibility of individual friendships and leaves an emptiness in our soul in the place where that friend otherwise would be.
As I wrote this I realized that prejudice has eternal consequences, but I just couldn’t make the idea jell. Then I got an email from my dear friend Richard Dilworth (Dil) Rust. Dil brought everything together for me. He wrote:
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LeGrand: In an experience related to your excellent insights concerning Helaman 13:38, a woman of another faith who has been reading the Book of Mormon posed this question: If, as it says in Alma 34, there is no opportunity to labor after this life, how can those spirits cast into prison (Alma 40) have an opportunity to accept Jesus as their savior and repent?
As for what you read in Alma 34, Amulek’s teaching needs to be considered in context. These Zoramites to whom he is preaching had received the gospel and then turned away from it. Amulek refers to the “many witnesses” they had already received of the truth about Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation (Alma 34:33). Thus for them, if they were not to repent in this life—after all the opportunities they had—they would “have become subjected to the spirit of the devil” (Alma 34:35). It helps to know, also, that the“same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34). In other words, at the end of our lives we will go into the spirit world with the same attitudes, beliefs, consequence of choices, and character traits that we had at the close of our lives on earth. We will be aided or limited by all of this.
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The part of Dil’s statement that caught my attention was this: “at the end of our lives we will go into the spirit world with the same attitudes, beliefs, consequence of choices, and character traits that we had at the close of our lives on earth.”
That statement takes the consequences of prejudices from just making us lame in this life to projecting that disability into the life to come. There, if we do not repent, it will cripple us for eternity.
That brought to my mind this statement in the Doctrine and Covenants. Notice, it does not say “whatever information.” It says:
18 Whatever PRINCIPLE OF INTELLIGENCE we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:18-19).
I believe that statement has little or nothing to do with book-learning. I believe that the “principle of intelligence” is the same principle that has enabled our growth from the time we were intelligences, and will continue to do so throughout eternity—charity, love, more specifically mutual love: philadelphia, hased.
The statement in the Doctrine and Covenants is encouraging. Its converse is terrifying:
18 Whatever PRINCIPLE OF INTELLIGENCE we [fail to ] attain unto in this life, it will [not — cannot] rise with us in the resurrection.
19 And if a person [fails to gain] more knowledge AND intelligence in this life through his [lack of] diligence and DIS-obedience than another, he will have so much the DIS-advantage in the world to come (D&C 130:18-21).
Once again, it all comes back to the same principle: It’s about light and darkness, love and hate, caring and contempt. If prejudices in this life preclude our loving others for the light that is in their individual souls, then we have so much the disadvantage in the life to come. Prejudice can destroy us. Teaching others to perpetuate our prejudices can cause us to help them destroy themselves.