“Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” Oscar Hammerstein, in his lyrics for the song Do Re Me, gave us a clue of where to start. Before this earth was, we were presented the plan of salvation that would govern our sojourn here. To begin with, we would like to review some gospel principles revealed in the scriptures about the plan and the beginning of its implementation.
The greatest gift our Heavenly Father gives us is His trust by giving us the right to choose. This trust has always existed and was manifest in our premortal life. The plan for this earth was presented to all of us and we were told what would be expected:
“For behold, this is my work and my gloryto bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Then He told us:
“…..we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them ;”( Abr 3:24, 25).
Knowing we might be weak and succumb to temptation, there had to be a plan allowing us to repent and gain forgiveness. The plan would require someone to help us in the path to resolve our transgressions. The Lord then asked whom he should send to govern the earth:
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, sayingBehold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
“But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto meFather, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;” (Moses 4:1-3).
When Satan was rejected he became angry and was cast out. He had been so persuasive that there were many who chose to follow after him and were cast out also (Abr 3:28).
Then the Lord told us the reason for sending His son:
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
The process of proving to see if we would follow His commandants required choice and opposition. This started in the Garden of Eden when the Lord told Adam and Eve not to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then he said:
“nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee ;”( Moses 3:17).
Opposition is interesting because this is Satans realm; however, the Lord prepared us by telling us Satans plan:
“Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, ……
“And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.”
There are two key words of opposition in the next two verses:
“And now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which I, the Lord God, had made.
“And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve,…” (Moses 4:3-6, italics added).
The Lord wants us to have control of our lives, thoughts, and actions. Often we give away our control by the way we react to situations and happenings. For instance, when we wont go somewhere because we might run into Joe. Now Joe has our control. We treat Sally rudely because she treated us rudely. Sally now has our control. These are “subtle” ways we give away our control and the principles we want to live. This is the path the Adversary attempts to lead us to and he is working overtime against us. Keep in mind the two words “subtle” and “beguile” because the Adversary uses them liberally and very interestingly “binds” us.
The Two Questions
Early in my career, as a therapist, a friend shared with me that she had been molested. I was honored she would share such a traumatic event in her life. She also shared the process she went through to get her life back in order. She decided the victim role was not for her and the person who molested her would not control her life. In deciding this, it in no way diminished the horribleness of the event or events. Out of this deep conversation concerning her journey I formulated the two questions, “So What?” and “Now What?”
There is a period of time each needs to heal, mourn, and work through the anger.
This is helped by a support system of family and friends. For some, there is a subtle and beguiling draw to the victim role as the continual sympathy feels good. The story is retold and the anger stays fresh. There is, in some cases, a lowering of personal expectations and expectations of others concerning thriving and moving forward. It is like being stuck in a hole or a rut. In effect, it is as though the events keeps happening in your mind over and over again and the molester, rapist, or abuser has your control and keeps your control.
Over the years, I have counseled with a number of people who have been victimized. In introducing the questions, I will tell them a few times I in no way will ever discount the terribleness of what they experienced. Then I will ask, “Were you (raped, molested, or abused)? Their answer is “Yes.” “Was it horrible beyond words?” Their answer is again, “Yes.” Then I say, “Brace yourself for my next question. And here it is, So What?”
Usually there is a very startled look and I continue to explain that until you ask and answer that question, the perpetrator will continue to control your choices. Most of my clients then have an “Ah Ha” experience. They tell me they have never thought about their life this way.
A few years ago, there was a great example of this principle in the life of the young girl, Elizabeth Smart. As you remember, she was kidnaped at age 14 and for nine months was put through the horrible events of abuse and rape. After she was found, this could have been a reason for her to be a victim for life. Instead, she had wise parents who helped her learn the above principle. As a result we have been able to observe her growth and return to life of choice and thriving.
Many Examples of Choice
The newspapers and jails are full of the stories of those who justify their misdeeds of theft, abuse, molestation, rape, murder, etc., because of what was done to them or what they believe they were deprived of. They let themselves be beguiled into believing they are owed or it is their right to do to others because of what was done to them. Two jaw dropping stories illustrate this point. One we read about in the news was of the defense attorney for a young man who committed murder. His defense for the murder was that the young man suffered from growing up too rich. The other story came from a client whose son told his parents they owed him everything all his life because he didnt choose to be here they caused him to be born.
Also, we know of two famous people who have given small snippets of their early life. They at some point choose to answer the two questions.
Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She used to have to wear dresses made out of potato sacks, reported she was raped at age nine and became pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy.
Steve Jobs, the highly successful co-founder of Apple Inc, was given away for adoption by his biological parents. He became interested in electronics after his adopted dad showed him the joys of technical tinkering in their garage. He had to drop out of college, because his education was costing his parents too much. He used to return Coke bottles for money and live on free meals at the Hare Krishna temple.
Success stories are all around. Look at some of your neighbors and you will find many stories of those who have overcome much adversity to build wonderful lives. We have two neighbors who were born in Europe, forced out of their hometowns, at a young age, under threat of being killed.
One lost both parents, both told of intense struggles to survive, and now have a comfortable life. Remember the story of the young man who had a terrible stuttering problem, found out when he would sing he didnt stutter. He went on to become a famous country singer. Many of us grow up in humble beginnings or with personal challenges and have to choose how we are going to answer the two questions the Lords way or the way of the Adversary.
Interpersonal relationships are often difficult to navigate and make it hard to stay with our desired principles. Sometimes things are said that are offensive and hurtful. We have met some who have turned away from opportunities because of being offended. There are those who have let a remark by an individual turn them away from a lifelong friendship or who have attributed one such remark to represent the whole Church, thus destroying a lifelong membership and testimony. This is what the Adversary wants, but it is not the way of the Savior.
Some talented, caring people have been affected this way and have lost opportunities of service and development. Contrast these of two stories:
A member of the church met a visitor on Temple Square who related he had been kicked out of a Sunday school class at a young age and told never to come back. He stated he never came back and when asked how many this act had affected, he said 52 members of his family.
The other story is a young man of about 12, quietly throwing little spitballs in sacrament meeting (unbeknown to his parents). A woman got up and asked this boy to come with her. He followed her and she led hem outside the church and told him he had no right to disturb the meeting and to go and never return. He started to walk home but decided yes, he was wrong, but she had no right to take away his church. He returned to wait in the foyer for his parents and continued activity in the Church. Each of us have to determine what we will do with what is said to or about us.
The Questions of Repentance
While contemplating the power of the two questions, the thought came that these are, also, the questions of repentance. Recall in your mind the story of the woman caught in adultery, who was brought before the Savior to be condemned.
The law stated she was to be stoned to death. The scribes and Pharisees asked the Savior what should be done to her. His answer was that the person who was without sin was to cast the first stone. After some time the Savior asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-11). Not to make light of the Saviors words, He basically said to her “So What and Now What.”
From the Book of Mormon, remember the story of the Ammonites who were a group of Lamanites converted through the missionary efforts of Ammon and his brothers. These people were so sorrowful for their previous sins from wars and battles, they buried their weapons of war vowing to never take up arms again. They became an industrious and hard working people. They too, answered the two questions (Alma 20-27).
Each of us, when we realize we transgressed and we come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, are then ready to ask ourselves the questions. This brings to our remembrance the simple story of a man we met in the armed service who dearly loved smoking big cigars. When he heard the gospel and the word of wisdom, he immediately chose to set them aside forever. Even though there was a remembrance of the pleasure of the past he totally stayed with the Now What.
Thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee;” (Moses 3:17).
What a wonderful gift our Heavenly Father has given us the gift of agency. The day will come when He will ask us to report our stewardship regarding that gift. Satan wants us to fail and does not want us to ask the questions because any amount of failure will cause sorrow and pain to our Father. We need to be on guard, watching continually for the subtle and beguiling actions that will bind us from finding the joy and fulfillment this life is designed to bring.
Learn more about Gary and Joy Lundberg, their books and articles, written to strengthen marriages and families, at their website .