The Head and the Heart

(a classical dilemma)



     I had an opportunity to remind my son, today, of the need to always employ the principle of careful reading when studying scripture. We must never allow, for example, words like, joy, to pass under our eyes thoughtlessly, lest we overlook the larger meaning which scripture plainly intends for us. In this case, joy is almost always associated with posterity, and posterity with the great commandment to "multiply and replenish the earth". And that, in turn, leads back to procreation, the concept that the children of men actually assist God in the completion of his creation in this, the seventh day of creation. And that, then, points to men being (potentially) gods. Or, as Lorenzo Snow, the Church's fifth President, so eloquently put it: "As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be." And that leads to yet another scripture: "... this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)
     So, to say that "Man is that he might have joy", is tantamount to saying that "Man is that he might become like God."
     Or, as I've taught my children, the purpose of life ... is life.
     Now, building on that, you may have heard me refer to the ancient belief that it was not the brain, but the heart which was the center of the intellect, the source of reason, the core of the soul. The Egyptians, for example, when mummifying their dead, removed all the (to them) unimportant organs, storing them in the canopic jars we see in facsimile 1, including the brain. Only the heart was left in the body because it was the heart which was most important. It was the heart which would be weighed. It was the heart which got one past the gobbler (which is NOT a turkey), or thrown to him. And yet, what was being weighed was not the depth of one's passions, the extent of their desires or emotions, but rather the weight of one's guilt. And that guilt was born of the chasm between what one knew and what one did.
     In other words, the heart remained because, to the Egyptians, the heart, not the brain, was the seat of one's knowledge. More importantly, one's salvation was not contingent upon feelings or passions, but upon knowledge.
     And, if that strikes you as irreligious, just recall that, the Egyptians were, and are, not alone in this. We, too, believe the same thing, for, as we know, not only is it impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance, but, indeed, the glory of God is intelligence.
     Sound unlikely to you? Seem bizarre? Misguided? Misdirected? Am I splitting metaphorical hairs? Making rhetorical mountains out of semantic molehills? Well, for starters, here is the man who dispelled part of that ancient, global belief ... sort of: Heropholis of Alexandria.
     Notice the following sentence in that article: "He proposed that the brain housed the intellect rather than the heart."
     That's not there for nothing. It used to be a big deal. Everyone believed that it was the heart which was the center of the intellect.
     No one believed that the brain played any role in the intellect.
     So, where, then, was the center of passions, desires, ... feelings, if not the heart?
     Funny you should ask, because I'll just bet that you've seen it many times, but, just as the word, joy, passed almost unnoticed under my son's eyes, so, too, did the scriptural word for the center of one's feelings pass under yours.
     Bowels
     "Say what?!"
     OH, YES! Just read Genesis 43:30, 1 Kings 3:26, Job 30:27, Song of Solomon 5:4, Isaiah 63:15, Jeremiah 4:19, Jeremiah 31:20, Lamentations 1:20, Lamentations 2:11, (getting closer to the best one) Philippians 1:8, Philippians 2:1, Colossians 3:12, 1 John 3:17, ... and many more. But, for our purposes here, there is one which rises above all the rest, and not just because it comes from the most correct book, but from the lips of the master himself: 3 Nephi 17:6-7
     "And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
     "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy." (which might seem a little odd, having just killed so many of them) (but that has to do with the true nature of love, and is yet another thing we'll have to explore some other time)
     So, Christ himself associates his own bowels with his own emotions, passions, desires. Not his head OR his heart, but his bowels.
     To the ancients, it was these bowels which were the seat of all such yearnings.
     "But!", you might interject, "You just told us that Heropholis of Alexandria sorted this out 325 years before Christ was born. And Christ spent his most formative years in Egypt, where Alexandria was. And Christ, the beneficiary of a substantial gift from some out-of-town visitors will certainly have used that money for education in Egypt. So how can he have so misused that term so long after Heropholis cleared up their misconceptions?"
     Well, I'm glad you asked, because this is yet another of those many 'little things that make you go "hmmm...." (aka miracles), which, to me, lend so much to my (and, hopefully, your) testimony of the Book of Mormon.
     Lehi's party left Israel centuries before Herophilus was even born, and never once passed through Egypt on their way to their promised land. They will have never heard of Heropholis, or any change in the ancient views on the relationship between the brain and the intellect, the heart and our passions, and our bowels and indigestion. Moreover, we have not the faintest suggestion that any of the Nephites ever turned their attention to this problem. Thus, it would be perfectly correct, and even expected, for Christ to communicate with the Nephites using language that would have still been familiar to them.
     Besides, as some of our scriptures cited above show, even in Christ's time and place, people were still equating the bowels with emotions. So, no matter what Christ's education, or where he was teaching, it would have been appropriate for him to use that analogy.
     What's less obvious, at this point, is the conundrum this creates for us in Joseph Smith's time. He is, after all, translating the record into our own language, even if certain 'Hebraisms' are preserved. (Not to mention some untranslatable words, but we'll get into Ziff some other time.)
     Now, I'm about to take a corner here, so don't let me lose you.
     When Christ reworded Isaiah 29:13 for Joseph from "... Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" into "They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me.", the wording, and the meaning, was clear to Joseph, but less so to us.
     Why? What did Christ mean by this?
     What he meant was that, although we parrot the words (draw near to me with their lips), we just do NOT know what they mean (their hearts/INTELLECT/knowledge are far from me).
     Don't believe me? Just read the rest of those scriptures yourselves: "Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read." Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words, and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore, behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed."...
     And be sure to read Matthew 15:8-9, too.
     (And, yes, I'm aware that I pointed to a different resource that time, but I have reasons for doing so, which would require a lengthy article of their own. For now, suffice it to say that the multiple, parallel translations found on that page can be very enlightening, especially where the JST is less complete. It's for that reason that I have used them in other articles, too, and, as I would any dictionary or encyclopedia, recommend them to others.)
     Once again, the importance of taking scripture in context, and employing careful reading, is reinforced. In context, this scripture becomes very plainly all about knowledge, understanding, or what Joseph would later explain to us in his Lectures on Faith is ... well ... faith. (Faith not being merely trust, but rather untested, unproven knowledge, or what we, today, would call erudition, or, in other words "tradition learned by rote".)
     Christ is clearly not referring to emotions, passions, desires, or what we sometimes call feelings. (And we'll talk more about that word, too, some other time.) He is referring to knowlege.
     The heart was, and remains, viewed as the source of our intellect.
     "Wait! What? You just said it's the brain!"
     So I did, but, who hasn't at least once in their life referred to 'getting to the heart of a matter', its center, its purpose, its cause, the intelligence or assumptions motivating action. And who hasn't learned something by heart? We do know that the word, heart, has this meaning, and we use it that way often enough. So why, then, do we not think of that meaning when we read this scripture? It's because we learned another tradition, by rote, which is interfering. And we must break out of that mindset. We must acquire new eyes, eyes with which we may see.
     And that's my real point here. Too many of us use words whose true meaning we have little to no real comprehension of, or assume a meaning that is not intended. And we do this far too often, resulting in the very situation Christ is alerting Joseph to.
     Case in point: Paul's famous faith, hope, and charity. Stop here and reflect on all that you've heard about each of these. It's bad enough that practically everyone we've ever heard speak on the matter, in recent memory, only perpetuates the notion that the charity which Paul goes to such lengths to explain to us (curiously by explaining what it isn't) somehow really, actually is the very things Paul says it's not. (Just with a cherry on top. Or with 'feelings'.) But have you ever even heard anyone tell you, in the Lord's church, of all places, that these three are synonymous with priesthood ordinances?
     No?
     Why not?
     Surely you've heard of "faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands)"? That ties faith to priesthood ordinances. Wouldn't the others also be tied to priesthood ordinances?
     And, if so, what might those ordinances be?
     Ever heard of one's calling and election being made sure?
     Are we there yet?
     Now, what does THAT do to your heart?

     Now, for some practical application. I mean, while knowing what Christ was really telling Joseph, and how this related to his comment to his mother that, "I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true." might be pretty startling to most, it's still got to bear more ripe fruit for us before it can be truly useful to us. And that's what all this is about, after all.
     So how about some simple word-replacements? Take, for example, the phrase, 'a mighty change of heart'. This becomes, a mighty change of mind. And that certainly fits, doesn't it? I mean, most people have their minds made up about a great many things, don't they? Don't you? And isn't that really why we sin? We don't really believe that just a little will hurt us. I mean, that's what we really believe. Face it. And our minds are made up about it. Any obedience to any rule is just a form of faith.
     So we reprioritize our beliefs in order to allow for something we really want to do, hoping (not knowing for sure) that it really won't hurt us as much as we've been told, or as much as we think we believe, and we go ahead and do it. And then we punish ourselves, mostly, I think, for not feeling as guilty as we, again, believe we should. But, think about it honestly now: Is there such a feeling in sin? Remember, we're talking about the difference between the head/heart and the bowels. Guilty feelings belong in the bowels. Sin belongs in the heart, or rather the head, because it has to do with faith, which is, in turn, an untried form of knowledge.
     So, let's say, you've been told that smoking is bad for you, but you've never seen anyone die from it. Is it true? You don't know. And a lot of people sure seem to enjoy it, and you really want to be one of them, so you join them, and you turn out to be that one in five who's particularly suceptible to smoking's ravages, and get sick. Do you feel guilty about that? Or do you feel stupid? Well, of course you feel stupid. And the only guilt you feel also comes from the belief that God punishes those who disobey him. Which isn't true. Yet. So, you regret being stupid. And, maybe, you've even learned your lesson, although the statistics for this aren't promising, and you now see that smoking really is deadly, and determine never to smoke again. Is that determination born of guilt? Or is it born of knowledge? The oft-cited hot-stove lesson? Once burned, twice shy.
     So, isn't that what repentance really means? It's certainly more than regretting wrongs (or trying hard to kid ourselves that we do); it's more about a complete change of opinion, a change of mind, a change of heart, seeing those things in a completely different light than before. It has nothing to do with a change in your feelings or emotions. Although, it does makes you much more likely to warn others away from those same rocks, lest they run their ships aground on them, and that may make you feel less guilty. And that's certainly a change of mind, too, isn't it? I mean, it's one thing to send out missionaries, who've never smoked, to teach people to avoid tobacco, but it's quite another to send out cancer survivors. Which would you be more likely to heed?
     Speaking of which, when I was about eight or nine, I had an acquaintance who's mother was a nurse at a military hospital. This kid had a nasty habit of playing with fire, and once even tried to set fire to a large cardboard box some other friend was playing in. He thought it would be funny. The other kid's mother didn't. My acquaintance's mother took him to work with her the next day, and volunteered him for the burn ward. There was a soldier there who'd been badly burned over most of his body, including his entire head and face. We heard later from our teacher that his mother struck a match, and that poor soldier nearly ripped his bed to shreds in a screaming fit of hysteria. My acquaintance was traumatized more by that, and by the new lives he saw those people condemned to, unable to function as they used to, now with missing digits or even entire limbs, than by the horrible scars he witnessed there, although that was pretty traumatizing, too.
     I only saw him once after that, but I can tell you that he never looked at fire with any kind of fascination again. In fact, he never came back to that school after that summer. He couldn't look his comrade in the eye knowing what he'd almost done to him, so his parents moved him to a differnt school off base. And that's where feelings came into it. And those feelings couldn't be called guilt, but shame. And that shame came in the faces of others.
     So, isn't that what repentance really means? It's certainly more than regretting wrongs (or trying hard to kid ourselves that we do) (which we call guilt); it's more about shame, the kind of shame so compelling it literally bars the wicked from the presence of the Lord. It's about a complete change of opinion, a new perspective, a change of mind, a change of heart, seeing those things that we did, or might have done, putting the cart of feelings back behind the horse of knowledge where it belongs. It means to tremble at the very sight of it, because you know full well the outcome. Your feelings or emotions are fickle and fleeting, as you well know. It's knowledge that turns temptation into terror. It's knowledge that urges you to warn the unwary away from any pits you've fallen into.
     This is one of the reasons Satan so delights in decieving us: He's never experienced the consequences. Neither have we, for that matter. Judgment day has not yet come.
     And that brings us to an important lesson about sin, and that is the shame that comes as a consequence. And those consequences flow, as I said about the Egyptians, from what you know, or don't know, or don't think about, or care about (reprioritizing again). But the thinking and the knowing, that's the purview of the head. Or the heart. But the shame, tell it, all those who've experienced it, that comes straight out of the bowels, right out of your gut. And you often wish that your actual bowels would go right along with it.
     For example, many have fallen into immorality, and feel guilty, and have repented. But, as David Wilkerson once asked, "Where is the anguish?" Feeling guilty is good, but is it enough? What would it take to bring that anguish, that shame which truly changes our minds, changes us? It is my argument here that more knowledge is the solution, and that knowledge might just have to take the form of witnessing the consequences at close range, if not experiencing them personally.
     Scripture contains some rather curious commandments regarding reproduction. Women are to be chaste, yes, as are men, but childless married women who lose their husbands are to marry a brother-in-law. Why? We see this in the story of Ruth who, having lost her husband, follows her mother-in-law back to the circle of her relatives, including one Boaz. And this Boaz becomes a prospective suitor, apparently because of the familial ties, but points out that there is an even nearer kinsman to Ruth than he is. But why would this matter? Wouldn't we want greater genetic distance, not less?
     No. Not in this case. Remember, Boaz is Naomi's relative, not Ruth's. So, what can the reasoning behind marrying as close a relative of her deceased husband as possible be? Well, as it turns out, and, as I've long suspected, science is learning something today which should have been obvious to everyone all along, and that is that a woman's body adapts to her husband's DNA as well as to her eventual children's DNA, otherwise she wouldn't be able to bear them for FORTY weeks. (See what I did there? It's important. Remember it.)
     This is one of the miracles of the female body, and why they are so special relative to the male body. So, given this facet of the female body, what do you suppose happens when it has to adapt to widely differing batches of DNA? Science hasn't presumed to make any announcements there that I'm aware of, and, so, I shouldn't either, but I well go on record here and now that I expect some rather shocking news in the future regarding birth defects and immune-system disorders (like diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and more) being traced to the female body attempting to cope with too widely divergent DNA samples.
     Now, for those who think they've felt guilty, for those who think they've repented of 'youthful indiscretions', what would it do to you to learn that one of your very own children was condemned to a lifetime of disability, or even death, because of your own sins?
     Would knowledge like that result in any shame? Would that shame bring you to your knees? Would that change you forever? Would you ever be tempted again?
     And, in keeping with the theme of this web-site, I should point out that the Apostle Paul, too, may have hinted at something similar going on among even more egregious adulterers in Romans 1:27-28.

     There are always consequences. Even repentance doesn't prevent that. If it did, none of us would die. But we all do. And, whatever you may feel about it, you certainly know it.

     So that works then. Now, all we need to do is remember to substitute the word, mind, wherever we see the word, heart, in order to uncover the new knowledge doing so brings us.
     But enough for now. I'll leave that to you.
     In the mean-time, let's let virtue guard our thoughts always, because we do not know it all. And that's something we do know, and we should start acting like we know it. Let's start trumpeting our call for virtue rather than letting others shame us into silence for championing it. Shame them for acting recklessly, thinking they know more. They don't know any more than we do, but we know that we don't know. We know that God has good reasons for his commandments, even if we don't know what they are. Yet.
     And that brings us to, 2 Timothy chapter 3. All of it.


~~ Marcus Aurelius ~~