One of my favorite ways to study the scriptures is to choose a word and look up all the references listed in the Topical Guide. I did this with the word “order” once and wow, did I ever learn about order. But that’s for another post. This time as I was reading Isaiah 5 I came upon this scripture, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…” (Isaiah 5:13). This is the chapter that relates the parable of the vineyard, and some of the sins that Israel were committing are listed: oppressing the poor, engaging in revelry—drinking and making merry and forgetting the Lord, rebelling against Him; and their sins were leading them into captivity. The reference for “captivity” tells us to look in the Topical Guide under “Bondage, Spiritual”. So wanting to understand more about what spiritual bondage is I looked up several scriptures that were referenced and was led down an interesting journey of what I would call line up line, precept upon precept. And rather than telling you what I learned at the end I’m going to list the scriptures with my thoughts and impressions so that you can see the connecting threads as well.
John 8:32—“and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This leads to a reference in D&C 50:25 –“you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you”. So the more truth we know, through our study and meditations, the freer we are. If truth leads to freedom and light, therefore lack of knowledge leads to spiritual bondage or darkness.
Mosiah 5:7-8 tells us that because we are spiritually begotten, through our covenants, we are made free. Through faith on his name, our hearts are changed.
Galations 5:1 references the Law of Moses with spiritual bondage—possibly meaning no saving ordinances?
2 Nephi 1:13 describes spiritual bondage as being in a deep sleep, the “sleep of hell”. Our worst nightmares come true?! It also describes bondage as “the eternal gulf of misery and woe.”
Mosiah 16:5—a person who is sinning and rebelling remains in the fallen state and the devil hath power over him. “Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made.” The atonement is null and void for that person.
Alma 5:7-13—Seeking knowledge brings illumination. Light allows us to “see” and to “chase darkness away”. Spiritual bondage is darkness. Verse 9 describes how “their souls did expand”. Darkness is the absence of light and the expansion of light dispels the darkness. A person who does not study the word of God has a narrow focus, only what the adversary wishes him to see. The word of God expands that focus.
Alma 12:11 gives more meaning—those who “harden their hearts are given the lesser portion of the word” (a narrowing of light), “until they know nothing” (are in darkness) and “then they are taken captive by the devil “(spiritual bondage). Remember the change of heart talked about in Mosiah 5:7-8, what is in our heart is directly related to our state of bondage.
Alma 41:11—spiritual bondage is to be without God “contrary to the nature of God…a state contrary to the nature of happiness” Spiritual bondage is unhappiness (misery and woe).
If we look at the sequence here we see that knowledge is the first step in being free. Knowledge is brought about by a study of the word of God. That knowledge illuminates our path; it changes our hearts and increases our faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement. It draws us into His light.
I have generally thought of spiritual bondage as being a state for really wicked people, but now I realize there are different stages of spiritual bondage and yesterday I realized that I was in one.
Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness ensues when we withdraw ourselves out of the light, for that is how it happens. It’s like being in the light of a lamp; the lamp doesn’t move, it’s a steady, continual light. I am the one who moves away from it. By my neglecting the Word, I put myself in darkness. I haven’t been studying my scriptures very regularly lately, and when I have studied, I haven’t really applied myself, it’s been more of reading to say I read rather than reading to increase my knowledge.
I don’t think of myself as really wicked, but just really slothful. When I move away from the light I find that my sense of order seems to diminish. I forget my priorities and I become very unproductive. My housework suffers, my children’s education suffers, and dinners don’t get made. I also find myself becoming more impatient. My heart hardens and I am not very sympathetic to my family’s needs, I become selfish. I am not happy because I am “contrary to the nature of God”.
Fortunately God can reach out into the darkness and find me. “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” I can catch hold of his hand and he can guide me back into the light. A couple of days ago he did just that. I had been watching a movie and fell asleep on the couch. I had a really weird, evil feeling dream and woke up to darkness (everyone had gone to bed and the TV had been turned off). I was stumbling around trying to find my way upstairs when I had a thought I should read my scriptures to try and erase the feeling from the dream. It was about 1:00 am, but I decided that I should listen, so I got my scriptures and proceeded to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon. I read from 1 Nephi 15 and here are a few phrases that popped out at me:
“Have ye inquired of the Lord?”
“If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.”
“Wherefore if they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.”
“Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish.”
“Give heed unto the word of the Lord.”
Notice how all these phrases have something to do with what I learned about spiritual bondage? Do you think He was trying to tell me something?
“Hey you, little girl out there stumbling around in the dark, get over here and study your scriptures!”
I gave heed and the last couple of days I have studied my scriptures with a little bit more intensity. Now if you will excuse me, I have some housework to attend to.