Recognizing our Own “Nothingness” (Mosiah 4:4-5)

This is taken from King Benjamin’s address to his people…

“And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them, saying: My friends and my brethren, my kindred and my people, I would again call your attention, that ye may hear and understand the remainder of my words which I shall speak unto you.

For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—” – Mosiah 4:4-5

Okay, I know that I stopped this quote in the middle of a thought, but as I read it, I wondered, do I really recognize my own nothingness?

Do we recognize our own nothingness???

This statement by King Benjamin reminds me of when Moses declares,

“…Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” – Moses 1:10

In a way, I take this scripture for granted. I figure, of course man is nothing. But I realize that it is thanks to Moses (and King Benjamin and other prophets) that I truly know this. I have been trying to really ponder what this means lately.

And I’ve realized that I am nothing.

Have you ever been to the desert?

Sedona, AZ

If you have, then you know that it is vast. I remember the first time I went to the desert. I went to Moab, UT. Even driving down there, through Central and Eastern Utah, I started to get amazed. I could see for miles and miles and miles. There was nothing obstructing my view. There were no trees, buildings, or people. I just saw miles of rocks, crags, and buttes. It was thrilling, yet I also became distinctly aware that I was nothing. I was only a spec on the land. When night fell, this realization became even more jolting, as the desert sky is bigger than any other sky and full of bright stars. Even though the landscape is dimmed, I felt even smaller, knowing that there were millions, billions, or trillions of stars, planets, and creations out in the expanse of space.

Yet, there I was, little me, sitting in the desert. I am nothing.

Do we as a society truly understand our own nothingness? I’m not sure. I mean, especially now – instead of gazing up at the sky or across the land, we spend a lot of time on facebook, or on blogs (I’m guilty of this) gazing at our own navels. Because we have been blessed with so much intelligence and technology, it is easy to forget how small we are, how powerless we are. It is easy to forget what the Lord asked,

“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:33

So…we need to remember that we are nothing.

I think that when we do this, we can have one of two outcomes. (Maybe there are more, but I’ve only pondered these two)…

One – Recognizing our own Nothingness without Knowing God
When we come to recognize our own nothingness without knowing God, I think that it would fill us with a sense of despair. I feel like this quote explains exactly what I mean:

““Hot and tired I stop in the shade of an overhanging ledge and take a drink from my canteen. Resting, I listen to the deep dead stillness of the canyon. No wind or breeze, no birds, no running water, no sound of any kind but the stir of my own breathing.
“Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse—its implacable indifference.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, p. 91

When we notice our nothingness, and we don’t know God, we are filled with dread. Life seems like a coincidence or a joke. We notice our nothingness, but there is nothing to fill us with love. We may think that the world and nature is indifferent to us, that we are just biological accidents–That we are a blip on the screen of the history of the world. Suddenly, everything we may find important about ourselves seems silly. We lose hope and purpose.

Nothingness – without God – conjures a kind of humility with no hope – dread or despair.

Two – Recognizing Our Nothingness and Knowing God
When we recognize our own nothingness, and know that God loves us, we become overwhelmed with humility, hope, and gratitude.

My experience in the desert was similar to Edward Abbey’s (as quoted above), but with one striking difference. Instead of feeling dread, I felt overwhelmed with Love. There I stood, in the desert, small. I knew I was small. The desert was so big around me. Yet, despite my smallness and insignificance, I knew that God loved me, and knew exactly where I was. I remembered the scripture,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:6-7

Even in this world, among all of the creations God had made, he is aware of me. And He loves me.

How do I deserve that? How can I be anything but grateful?

Not only does He know us and love us, but he blesses us – specifically and personally.

Yesterday, my dad was leaving to go to my sister’s house in OKC. He had visited me in Boston. We all went out to Mimi’s Cafe for brunch, and then my sister and my dad were heading out. At Mimi’s Cafe, my dad noticed that his driver’s license and ATM card were not in his wallet. He figured that they were in his coat pocket – from when he was traveling on the plane. I insisted that he check the coat pocket before he left for OKC. After brunch, we got to the car. He checked his coat pockets and found they were empty. He checked his laptop-bag, his luggage, his pants pockets. He checked everything, and they were nowhere to be found.

This was disconcerting – as he would need identification to get on the plane again. So, we went back to my house to check for the missing cards.

We searched everywhere. I suggested we say a prayer, and we did. We began our search again. They started calling the airlines to see what the procedure would be for lost ID. I received the impression to go outside and look for the cards.

The Lord directed my path, and I found them in the leaf pile. We celebrated finding the cards, and then offered a prayer of gratitude.

I thought about that – and tried to think of it in the “big picture” – in God’s perspective. His scope is so huge. He is aware of all of his infinite creations. And, in the scheme of things two cards for my dad are pretty small. In fact, even in the scheme of our own lives, of my dad’s life, those cards are pretty insignificant.

Yet the Lord, despite our nothingness, chose to direct our paths, and we found the cards. Even though we are less than specs in His eternal view, He loves us. He cares about us. He finds important what we find important.

I can’t help but be filled with love as I consider that despite my nothingness, God loves me.

What helps you to remember your own nothingness? How do you feel God’s love despite your nothingness? Why do you think it is important to recognize both?