I was reading an assignment for Institute class recently. Among the readings was this, from The Book of Mormon, Jacob Chapter 4:
8. Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.
9. For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?
10. Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.
I have often pondered the creation and wondered, “OK but how?!” How were the waters and the land separated? Mountains formed? That’s a lot of manual labour, and I can’t fathom a single strong person who could construct even a little island like Ireland. Was there a tool that was utilised? I’m pretty accepting of the all encompassing power and might that God has- as my mother often reminds me, “You’re dealing with God, the impossible is possible.” But I have always still been curious- yes, He can do anything, but does he have a preferred method? Is He a fan of waving His hands magically, or maybe He has a specific method like the witch in Bewitched with her whole nose twitch thing?* Is it strenuous? How much paperwork or planning or science is involved, or is it more like an impressionist painter, sitting down and being as excited as the spectator to see what happens.
In this scripture was a clue to my search- the actual execution of power or creation in this instance, came about at the word of Christ. Think of it. His words were the power by which He chose to make things happen. There were other ways His power was displayed or put into effect. Even His very presence and wordless being turned miraculous profit- a woman merely touched His robes and was healed! But I found it so interesting and so poignant to learn that words could be so powerful, and as I thought about it, I realised our schooling from God here in this mortal state contains many instances where we learn that our words are binding, contractual, and important.
I began to think about how critical this realisation was to me. Do I think carefully before I speak to others? Do I use the right words with myself? What words do I choose to keep and share? What words do I not use enough? Do I use enough of the Saviour’s words? Am I careless with my words? What do my words say about me? Do I associate with people who care about their words, or who are careless about their words?
President Monson, in the most recent General conference, said
“The words we use can lift and inspire, or they can harm and demean. In the world today there is a profusion of profanity with which we seem to be surrounded at nearly every turn. It is difficult to avoid hearing the names of Deity being used casually and thoughtlessly. Coarse comments seem to have become a staple of television, movies, books, and music. Bandied about are slanderous remarks and angry rhetoric. Let us speak to others with love and respect ever keeping our language clean and avoiding words or comments that would wound or offend. May we follow the example of the Saviour, who spoke with tolerance and kindness throughout His ministry.”
Before I began to feel too self conscious about not being a perfect or most respectful user of words, I came across this scripture in Ether (12:23-25), where a man like me went to the Lord in a bit of a cheeky entitled way if you ask me:
“Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; … thou hast not made us mighty in writing; …
“… wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.”
I guess he had a point- If he was about the Lord’s business, why couldn’t the Lord make his perfect at using his words, especially when this guy knew how important what we was saying would be. He was intimidated by his calling- he knew generations of people from all walks of life would read what he would write. And he was just little old him!
The Lords point remains the same: we’re not expected to be perfect now; we could never meet God’s standard of power and ability now. All that’s asked is that we do what we can.
Without making any real conclusion, here’s the observations of Melvin J. Luthy who in 1999 spoke at my alma mater Brigham Young University, on Truth, Lies, and the Power of the Word.
When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He made it clear that they and their descendants were to have “dominion” over all the earth (Moses 2:26)—or, in other words, they were to have presiding and governing power in the earth. It was surely not their physical strength that would give them dominion—because many animals were larger and stronger than they were. It would be by other means, among which language was paramount, because with it Adam and Eve could commune with God and establish relationships in their new world. It is significant that after Adam was placed in the garden, his first task was to name things (Moses 3:19), for it is by naming and defining relationships that we establish order and dominion. Ever since that first linguistic exercise, the use of language has made it possible for us to record and transmit information from generation to generation, thereby allowing us to maintain dominion (Moses 6:5–6). To this day the power of words remains the primary means by which men and women try to exercise dominion or influence in the world. Sometimes that dominion or influence is economic, sometimes political, often emotional, and, fortunately, in its finest manifestation, spiritual.
Brigham Young taught an interesting principle, that by controlling our words we gain control of our thoughts. The Epistle of James teaches us that small things like the bit in a horse’s mouth or the rudder on a ship can control the larger body (James 3:1–4). So also, by the small matter of controlling our tongues, we gain control over our bodies.
As many others were abandoning Him, the Savior asked Peter whether he, too, would leave him. “Where would I go?” Peter answered: “Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67–68). The words of eternal life are words that teach us who we are, what our condition is, who our Redeemer is, why we can trust in Him, and how we can return to enjoy eternal life with our Father in Heaven. While we are in mortality, such words also invoke the power of the priesthood, pronounce blessings on the sick, and heal hearts and minds through kind expressions and wise counseling. Words of confession lift the burdens of sin from us; words place us under covenants so we can lift and be lifted; they bind us to eternal blessings; they give us confidence in the future, for we know that God does not lie.
*It’s not sacrilegious if you’re trying to make a valid point. (?)