Help. Hope. Healing.

Our Fears Did Cease

By Rex Goode

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One of my favorite vignettes from the Book of Mormon is the story of Zoram and Nephi outside the gates of Jerusalem (1 Nephi 4). To me, it is a great example of the declining art of integrity and trust. It holds many lessons for those who struggle with difficult challenges with relationships.It is part of the larger story where Nephi goes to the household of Laban to obtain the brass plates. He had already tried three times to get Laban to honestly turn them over. Nephi ended up slaying Laban and then disguising himself as Laban. It was Zoram that Nephi fooled.

Zoram was commanded by Nephi, in the guise of Laban, to open the treasury and follow him out of the city walls where Laman, Lemuel, and Sam waited. Those three thought Nephi was Laban as well, so they started to run. Nephi called out to them to identify himself. That made Zoram fear, so he turned to run also.

Hunky Nephi grabbed Zoram and held him fast while at the same time promising him that no harm would come to him if he would give Nephi a chance to explain. It was explained to Zoram that they had gone into the wilderness to be free and that he could join them and also be free.

Zoram made an oath to be part of their company and stay with him. Then, as a result of Zoram’s oath, Nephi writes, “Our fears did cease concerning him.”

I can hardly imagine a day when promises and oaths were of such great significance that fears could cease between people as a result of them. It seems that today, people are so willing to make promises they don’t intend to keep.

As far as we known, Zoram never broke that oath. We know he continued to the promised land with the company of Lehi’s people and there is no record of any treachery on Zoram’s part. I think it is safe to say, that the trust Nephi placed in Zoram’s word was held sacred between them.

In dealing with sexual addictions and relationships, trust is the thing that seems to be most destroyed between couples affected. Rebuilding trust is a difficult task, but not impossible. For a professional and spiritual perspective on this, see Rebuilding Trust, by Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D. on this site.

Some spouses of sex addicts may scoff at the following statement, but I still believe it to be true. Not only does such a spouse suffer from lack of trust in the erring spouse, but the erring spouse also suffers from a lack of trust in the other. It creates an awful impasse, that unless a way around is discovered, can spell the end of any chance of a healthy relationship.

I think that the story of Nephi and Zoram holds some valuable principles for beginning to build a bridge of trust between to people caught in a bind that keeps them from trusting each other. To me, he most important principle in the story is the idea of boundaries.

Boundaries are the terms of behavior that I require in order to have a healthy relationship with me. Boundaries are of little use unless they are communicated. Even though some boundaries seem natural and not in need of expression, I can’t expect others in my life to read my mind.

Some boundaries are communicated non-verbally. Try walking up and taking a swing at me. I don’t like it and I will communicate my preference with few, if any, words.

When people tend to violate my boundaries, I feel an obligation to establish them verbally between the other person and me.  It takes the form of stating my boundary and outlining the consequence. In a kind of reverse boundary, somewhat like a reverse mortgage, Nephi says to Zoram:

And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, we would spare his life (v. 32).

I take that to mean that the reciprocal boundary was also true, or in other words, “If you will not hearken in to our words, you will lose your life.” This constitutes a negative boundary/consequence pair. Now, wives, I’m not saying here that it is acceptable to say, “If you don’t stop looking at porn, you will lose your life.”

In fact, the better form of Nephi’s boundary for Laban is in the positive boundary/consequence pair:

And I also spake unto him, saying: Surely the Lord hath commanded  us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord? Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with us (v. 34).

Unfortunately, most talk of boundaries is done in the negative form. I think the negative form is usually necessary, but I think it should always be accompanied by the positive version. Stating it both ways makes it complete and gives hope, which hope builds trust.

In the story, the boundaries are very good, but the best principle practiced in the story was the exchanging of oaths, or in other words, the covenant made between Nephi and Zoram.

Nephi’s part:

And I spake unto him, even with an oath, that he need not fear; that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us (v. 33).

And Zoram’s part:

And it came to pass that Zoram did  take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth (v. 35).

Finally, the outcome of the exchange was a level of trust was accomplished between Zoram and the family of Lehi.

And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him (v. 37).

If you were paying attention to the order of verses, you would see that the pattern went like this:

Nephi states boundary. Nephi declares an oath. Nephi offers for Zoram to agree. Zoram responds with an oath. Result: the establishment of a covenant of trust.

I am still of the belief that I have often stated that forgiveness is free, but trust must be earned. While I stand by that, I also recognized that trust can’t be built without an investment of trust that hasn’t yet been earned. If someone has violated my trust, I can’t ever rebuild that trust without making an offer to invest enough trust  in the other person to give him a chance to prove himself trustworthy.

I think that is where many marriages tainted by infidelity, whether in the real world or in pornography, never recover. Because trust is violated, the one whose trust in the other has been shattered is unwilling to make that investment. It becomes impossible to earn without a little earnest paid. I’m sure that even though their fears did cease concerning Zoram, trust grew over time as he honored his oath to them.

Trust is a two-way proposition. It wasn’t just Nephi who had to trust that Zoram would go with them. Zoram had to trust that Nephi would keep his promise to not slay him. They both had to step out a little into the unknown and hope.

Never underestimate sexual addiction’s impact. For Zoram and Nephi, the consequence of either failing to keep the oath could result in death of the other.  I think that the potential for spiritual death that sexual addiction can bring is far more serious than temporal death. In the life and death struggle of infidelity, families affected need more than anything for their fears to be able to cease and move toward the promised land of joy in this world and eternal life, together, in the world to come.

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