Have you ever been emotionally charged about something? A good, vigorous indignation, maybe over someone folding your laundry wrong or burning the green beans and setting off the fire alarm?
Well who hasn’t gotten upset about something trivial and meaningless? It’s human nature (the natural man) to do so. The purpose of mortality in a telestial world is to encounter difficult circumstances that challenge us, and then rise above them to be changed through the atonement of Christ into a spiritual being.
There are forces in this world, directed by forces in the unseen world, that don’t want us to make this transition. They lure us into strange and forbidden paths that are the mists of darkness Lehi and Nephi wrote about in their visions of the tree of life. The allure of worldly things blinds our minds into idol worship. Media and marketing messages stir our hearts up to pride that we are better than others. We start pointing fingers of scorn and contempt or hatred at others. We make war instead of peace. These are Satan’s workings in the world and it’s getting more and more stark and powerful than ever.
A word has been jumping out at me in my readings lately and I thought I would study it a little more. The word is stirred. This word is used 112 times in the scriptures in its various forms (stir, stirred, stirreth). In 21 verses, the word heart is associated with it, which makes sense because to stir someone, for good or ill, is to generate an emotionally charged state. Strong emotions lead to thoughts, words, and deeds, for which we will be judged (Mosiah 4:30). We must be careful to bridle our emotions and not let them get away from us (James 3:2, Alma 38:12).
We have to carefully judge what is put in front of us to know if we are being manipulated and try to discern where it’s leading us. If it leads us toward enmity with our fellow mortals, it is of the devil. God doesn’t work by manipulation. He works by presenting truth and inviting us to an experiment on his word (Alma 32:27-43).
In Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word stir has among its meanings:
To agitate, bring into debate, incite to action, to excite, to instigate by inflaming passions, to enliven, to disturb, to put in motion, etc…
In the scriptures, a search for this word is instructive. Almost every instance of this word is used in a negative context as we read about Satan and his earthly minions stirring up people to wickedness. There are only a few positive verses that deal with stirring and it’s always to repentance. Lets get started.
Here’s a list of the searches I performed in studying this topic. Pretty simple but it gave me what I wanted for this. You can do all of these side by side in Scripture Notes to view the subsets of verses where only certain words are present.
Lets start with the accusation of the Jews against Christ. During Christ’s trial, he was brought before Pilate and the people, stirred up by the Sanhedrin, accused Christ falsely of several things. One of them was this:
“And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.” (Luke 23:5)
They accused him of being a troublemaker. They accused him of doing the very thing they were doing. Total hypocrisy. Throughout the book of Acts, we see several instances of the Jews stirring up the people to stop the gospel of peace.
“And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him (Stephen), and brought him to the council…” (Acts 6:12)
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren.” (Acts 14:2)
“And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him (Paul) in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him…” (Acts 21:27)
Obviously, the devil is the source of stirring up contention. Nephi wrote:
“For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20)
Sometimes in the scriptures, it mentions the Lord “shall stir up a scourge” (Isaiah 10:26) and makes it sound like the Lord causes a group of people to become angry with another. This is incorrect. The Lord never stirs up people to anger (3 Nephi 11:30). He simply ceases to be able to bless people when they turn to wickedness and ceases to soften the hearts of their enemies (Helaman 12:2). That’s when they become a scourge to the righteous by coming to war against them to remind them to call upon the Lord for blessings of peace and prosperity.
For example, Mormon wrote of the Nephite wars and how they had, by their pride, lost the divine protections of the Lord which allowed Satan to bring a war upon them through Satan’s servant Amalickiah.
“Therefore he had accomplished his design, for he had hardened the hearts of the Lamanites and blinded their minds, and stirred them up to anger, insomuch that he had gathered together a numerous host to go to battle against the Nephites.” (Alma 48:3)
Where the wicked Amalickiah stirred up the hearts of the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites so they would go to war, Moroni inspired the hearts of the Nephites to courage and valor by raising the title of liberty to defend their rights of worship and protection of their freedom and families. Two very different messages with different purposes and effects. One generated hatred and offensive action, the other generated love and a desire to defend that which was good and righteous.
The scriptural opposite of stirring might be inspire.
“And it came to pass that when the men of Moroni saw the fierceness and the anger of the Lamanites, they were about to shrink and flee from them. And Moroni, perceiving their intent, sent forth and inspired their hearts with these thoughts-yea, the thoughts of their lands, their liberty, yea, their freedom from bondage.” (Alma 43:48)
Aside from stirring up people to anger, what else does Satan stir up the people to do?
“But behold, Satan did stir up the hearts of the more part of the Nephites, insomuch that they did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.” (Helaman 6:21)
“And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come.” (Helaman 16:22)
“Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this-Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.” (3 Nephi 6:15)
“And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.” (Doctrine & Covenants 10:63)
This isn’t just a “Lamanite” problem. It’s not them. It’s within the Nephites, those who are charged with maintaining the rights and privileges of the people, who fought for freedom, family, and their God and religion. They are the ones being enticed.
These things are why Nephi wrote:
“For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;” (2 Nephi 28:19)
Speaking of this verse, in the October 1998 General Conference, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said the following:
“Much as I lament the gathering storms, there will be some usefulness in them. Events will help to draw fresh attention to God’s higher ways and His kingdom, which is to “become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon” (D&C 105:31)
Individuals and nations will continue to choose what they want, but they cannot alter the ultimate consequences of what they want.
Therefore, in this hastened ripening process, let us not be surprised that the tares are looking more like tares all the time. During this time when nations are in distress, with perplexity, there will actually be some redemptive turbulence: “For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance” (2 Nephi 28:19)
Being so “stirred up” will be a real thing, though we can only speculate as to how it will be achieved.”
We are the eye-witnesses of this shaking getting started. There is a wake-up call happening that should alarm everyone. The Lord is allowing increasing destructions to occur because he cannot bless us with peace in a state of wickedness. Therefore, Satan’s great day of power is rising to chastise the nations. As wars break out, it will remind some people to call upon God for protection.
The prophets warned the people of this frequently.
“And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things-stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1:23)
“And it came to pass that by so doing (laboring to exhort the people to keep the commandments) they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance.” (Jarom 1:12)
“Therefore, as they were unfaithful they did not prosper nor progress in their journey, but were driven back, and incurred the displeasure of God upon them; and therefore they were smitten with famine and sore afflictions, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty. (Mosiah 1:17)
Why did they do this? If the people would repent and turn away from their pride, the Lord could bless them again, offering covenant protection and blessings.
What other tools are available to the prophets to turn the people toward God? Famine.
“O Lord, do not suffer that this people shall be destroyed by the sword; but O Lord, rather let there be a famine in the land, to stir them up in remembrance of the Lord their God, and perhaps they will repent and turn unto thee.” (Helaman 11:4)
Ultimately, if we anger, we are in a state of enmity. It doesn’t matter our political persuasion or what causes it. If we are stirred up, we are in a state of iniquity and need to repent.
If someone else is in a state of anger, the inspired wisdom of Solomon applies:
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12)
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
“A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” (Proverbs 15:18)
“He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.” (Proverbs 28:25)
At its core, strife is a state of inner turmoil that boils over outside of us. The Savior taught us to have inner peace, which comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
John 14:1, 27
1. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
27. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
The solution to all strife, all poverty, all wickedness, and every problem on earth, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It starts with us. When we are filled with love, we can overpower evil. It doesn’t mean we can rescue every soul filled with hate, end every secret combination, or silence every foe of truth. But, there are many we can affect and lead to do right if our hearts are in the right place. Seeking the gift of charity will change our lives and many others. Finding inner peace and contentment in the love of God, will satisfy the soul and bless our families, communities, and nations.
(Featured Image by piotrkt @123rf.com)