What Is Our Own Carnality?

 The first chronological mention of Carnality in the scriptures appears soon after Adam and Eve left the garden.

Moses 5:12-15   And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. 13 And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish. 14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent.

Here, carnal, sensual and devilish are lumped together, and without further investigation, one might be led to believe they were one and the same.  However, upon further investigation, it becomes clear that they are three separate, distinct things, though all products of differing degrees of the same thing.

By lumping them together as one, it is easy to look at carnality as only the very bad things that we do or that bad people do and fail to recognize what our own carnality really is, how deeply ingrained it is within us, and how detrimental it is to our growth and progress.

By separating these words, using the Lexicon definitions, we come closer to the true meaning of the words—as well as the distinct differences:  

Carnalfrom the Greek  sarkikos {sar-kee-kos’}

1)  governed by mere human nature not by the Spirit of God

2)  pertaining to the flesh, i.e. to the body: related to birth, linage, etc

or from the Greek –  sarx {sarx}

1) the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.

Sen·su·al – from the Greek   psuchikos {psoo-khee-kos’}

1) having the nature and characteristics of …the principal of animal life,     which men have in common with the brutes

1) governed by …..the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion

Devilish – from the Greek  daimoniodes {dahee-mon-ee-o’-dace}

1) resembling or proceeding from an evil spirit, demon-like

            And from the scriptures we find the characteristics of the carnal nature: (see Spiritual Foundation lessons for references)

  1. The carnal mind is limited to knowledge gained through the physical senses.
  2. The carnal mind’s wisdom is foolishness to the Lord.
  3. The carnal mind produces no good.
  4. The carnal mind cannot understand the things of God.
  5. The carnal mind is an enemy to God (opposes the will of God).
  6. The carnal mind cannot recognize the spirit of the devil.
  7. The carnal mind is the door to the devil.
  8. It is possible for the carnal mind to overcome the Spirit.
  9. The carnal mind leads to the destruction of the soul.

All of these characteristics are detrimental to the progression of man.  They lead away from God and prohibit the development of the divine nature.  Understanding this should bring us to the conclusion that understanding carnality, what it is, how it affects us, and how to remove it from our lives should be one of our chief concerns.

In TPJS P. 189, Joseph states: There are three independent principles; the Spirit of God (spiritual), the spirit of man (carnal), and the spirit of the devil (evil). All men have power to resist the devil.  Since there are but three influences, and they operate upon man independently, one cannot be under the influence of  carnal and spiritual at the same moment in time.  He cannot be under the influence of evil and carnal at the same time, and he cannot be under the influenced of evil and spiritual at the same time.

D&C 29:34  tells us:  Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.  35 Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.

Because to God, all things are Spiritual, we must conclude that God does not operate at any time in the carnal mind and that He does all things at all times, spiritual or temporal, from a spiritual point of view.  This may be the greatest contributing reason that His ways are higher than man’s ways and His thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts. (See Isaiah 57:6-9)  Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:  7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  8 For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  9 For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

            With this understanding we can conclude that any time we operate under the carnal influence, what we produce will be carnal, and therefore not bear good fruit, be counterproductive to the purposes of God, and that while we operate under that influence, we will be acting as an enemy to God, regardless of what we are doing, by virtue of the influence we are operating under. 

            We could then define our own carnality as anything we think, do, say, or produce while operating under the influence of carnality—or in other words, while failing to operate under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord.

            Thus as we function through a typical day, it is very likely, unless we have disciplined our minds to keep focused on the Spirit, we may function carnally a much of the time, thus putting ourselves at odds with the Lord in ways that we might not consider to be detrimental to His work, or to our progress.

Since we have operated under a primarily carnal influence most of our lives

            –and because under that influence we cannot understand the things of God,

            –and because God’s ways are higher than man’s ways

–and God’s thoughts are higher than man’s thoughts, 

we should understand that in order to become like Him, we must change our ways and our thoughts to be like His.  If in the carnal state, we cannot understand the ways of God, it must then be clear that in order to make these changes we must be under the influence of His Spirit, and not under the influence of our own carnality.

Understanding our own carnality and seeing ourselves in our carnal state is vital to our ability to overcome sin in our lives, and to becoming Born of God which is necessary if we want to qualify to enter a Terrestrial world.  We see from the example of King Benjamin’s people in the Book of Mormon that one does not necessarily see himself in his carnal state as a result of being diligent in keeping commandments.  The discovery of carnality and the ability to see oneself in his carnal state comes through the Holy Spirit, with the help of the Holy Order.  According to the scriptures, King Benjamin’s people were diligent in keeping the commandments.  This is why they were called together to this assembly.

Mosiah 1:10-11  …, I would that ye should make a proclamation throughout all this land among all this people… that thereby they may be gathered together…., I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord. 

            King Benjamin’s people had been taught a great deal from good teachers, and they knew and kept the commandments, but this did not show them their carnal state, it only prepared them to see it.

Mosiah 2:2-4  …  4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had .. appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king.. and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

            King Benjamin had been commanded of the Lord to impart certain information to his people.  He understaood that if he approached it carnally, no good would be accomplished.  He started his discourse with supplication for the Spirit to attend and impart understanding into the minds of the people.  He recognized that without the Spirit, true learning would not take place.

Mosiah 2:9   And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

            When King Benjamin had finished his address, he sought to know the reaction of the people.  The Spirit of the Lord had come upon them, and had expanded their understanding.  As a result, they viewed themselves in their carnal state.

Mosiah 4:2-3  ….  2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. ………the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of     the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words  which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. ……5 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—

            It appears that they viewed themselves in their carnal state for the first time, despite their diligence in keeping the commandments they had received.  It is possible to keep the commandments and never see oneself in one’s carnal state, not see how detrimental carnality is, or how it encompasses everything we do.

The Lord made it clear how he views carnality in Isaiah when he said:

Isaiah 66:4

 4 So will I prescribe  intrigues for them and bring upon them the thing they dread.  For when I called, no one responded; when I spoke, none gave heed.  They did what was evil in my eyes; they chose to do what was not my will.

            Here, he seems to classify carnality as “evil in his eyes”.  It is clear that doing what the “Lord wills” is the only way to righteousness and to the development of the true divine nature. 

            Is there any way to do this other than by seeking His view of things, His way of doing things, His purposes, His understanding, His thinking on even the smallest matters, as we seek to move to a higher way and a higher level?  Will we see or find it if we do not seek, knock, and ask?  We talk of building Zion, but what will that involve?

            We could go through a long list of things that encompass every day life.  How is our way of living going to change in order to become more like God’s way of living.  How does carnality affect the way we live and do things?  How do we discover the carnal influences in our lives, our surroundings, our homes, yards, children, families?  I once spent some time pondering what a sewing room in the higher realms looked like.  What I saw isn’t what the sewing room in the Red Brick Store looks like, but it is the closest thing to it we could do with the Telestial materials and budget we have.  I would never have designed it like that without that vision from the  Spirit.   Because of this experience, I believe it is possible to gain a higher vision of almost anything if we seek it and labor with the Spirit to see it.   I once spoke with someone who had prayed to know what orchards looked like in Heaven.  She described what she was shown as something that sounded more like a park than an orchard.  

            Perhaps our first step is realizing that every aspect of our lives will need changing and that we must seek to find, understand, and know what needs to be done now to move into a constantly Spiritual, rather than carnal frame of mind.  We must seek.  We must be willing to accept change, sacrifice our present ways, habits, methods, preconceived notions of how things should be, and become like little children, teachable and humble, seeking and willing to change.

JST Matthew 9:21 For when that which is new is come, the old is ready to be put away.  22  For no man putteth a piece of new cloth on an old garment; for that which is put in to  fill it up, taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

D&C 63:49 Yea, and blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, from henceforth, when the Lord    shall come, and old things shall pass away, and all things become new, ….

            Are you aware that you can do the same thing some else does, but you may be acting under the carnal influence and they may be acting under the Spiritual influence?  If your actions are self-will guided (carnal) and anothers actions are God’s-will guided, your actions may be counted as sin while the other person’s may be counted as righteousness, even if you are both doing the same thing.  God sees and judges by the intent of the heart, He knows our thoughts, he knows if we are acting carnally or spiritually.  The big question is, do we?   

            Part of the purpose of every mission in Zion is to discover, implement, become an example of, teach, and train the higher ways of Zion.  These must not be carnal ways, but spiritual ways.  One person cannot bring about a Zion society, but many people acting  in inspired cooperation can.  If Zion is different in every way, how should we be different, and how should we be doing things differently?  We need to be seeking to understand and see where carnality affects every area of our lives and our way of doing things, thus chaining us to Telestial ways in a Telestial world.   We need to be seeking to understand what moving to a higher level is.  What does God require of us?  What is our mission? Are we being taught by the Lord?  Are we teaching our children to be taught of the Lord? In this time of waiting, should we be doing all that we can to understand and attain higher levels that will prepare us for what is to come?  Only by ridding ourselves of the carnality within us and our environment can this be done.

Viewing ourselves in our carnal state will give us a view of how  vitally important it is to maintain the Spirit’s influence twenty-four/seven.  Maintaining that influence twenty-four/seven will put us in the position of being taught by the Lord twenty-four/seven.  Only then will we truly be able to move consistently forward in our understanding of His ways and His thoughts, and truly be on the path to come to know Him.  Then can  the scriptures be fulfilled:

Isaiah 54:13 And all thy children [shall be] taught of the LORD; and great [shall be] the peace of thy children.  14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.