Three meanings of weak things made strong

May 7, 2006 | 8 comments

I’ve just read a book on Washington and heard a couple of talks in Church that got me thinking about weak things being made strong.

Like most books on Washington, this one pointed to his tremendous self-control as one of his greatest strengths. Like most books on Washington, this one suggested that he gained this degree of self-control in struggling with his tremendous passions. One meaning of weak things being made strong is that our weaknesses are replaced with their opposite strengths. We are probably more likely to ask for the strengths that we are the most conscious of lacking, and, asking, are therefore more likely to receive. We are probably also more careful about the virtues that we have felt the lack of. Former alcoholics are usually teetotalers.
. For a bloggernacle example (of the general principle, not of alcoholism), see here.

A sister from the pueblo gave a talk on service. She mentioned a friend of hers who was in a black depression after her husband divorced her for frivolous reasons of personal fulfillment. The sister counseled her friend to lose herself in service, which she did. The friend has now acquired a taste for it. Another meaning of weak things being made strong is that our weaknesses make us stronger as we struggle with them. The book on Washington suggested that one of his strengths was his unflinching knowledge of flawed human nature which he gained by first recognizing his own flaws. Weaknesses can lead us to Christ, as with the Zoramites of Alma 32.

The sister’s husband gave a talk that mentioned Abraham Lincoln’s compassion. His compassion was probably a weakness in a war leader. He kept generals around too long and was too quick to undermine discipline with pardons. Eventually Stanton in the Department of War supplied the ruthlessness that Lincoln lacked, but before then damage was certainly done. On the other hand, Lincoln’s compassion won over the soldiers, who voted for him in large numbers in 1864, and the population, who did the same. His compassion probably also made a difference abroad, especially in England. His compassion was a key ingredient in the Second Inaugural, which has become part of the American scripture. His compassion and the country’s memory of it was also important to the country’s healing after the war had ended. The third meaning of weak things becoming strong is that our weaknesses are really malformed virtues, or misapplied virtues, and through God’s grace they will become the virtues they were meant to be. If you remember the story, this is the meaning of the lizard who became a stallion in The Great Divorce.

All three meanings are part of the great meaning of the fall, our mortal probation, and Christ’s redeeming work.


8 Responses to Three meanings of weak things made strong

  1. BrianJ on May 7, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the post. I think that 1 Cor 15:43 supports your third meaning. I like how it uses the image of planting a weak seed that grows into a mighty plant.

    I would like to add something that a friend pointed out to me. The scriptures do not use the word “weaknesses.” Instead, they refer to man’s weakness and that God will transform (as you describe above) weak things into strong. The distinction between weaknesses (plural) and weakness (singular) seems important to me: the former referring to particular characterisitcs in an individual and the later referring to the general fallen state of man–something we all share.

    I am interested in finding scriptural examples of the three meanings you describe.

  2. Kimball L. Hunt on May 7, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    It’s the very recognition of weakness (/-es?) and ignorance, along with Hope and the desire and discipline to put forth efforts to stregthen them, that’s the greatest strength. Which makes such Virtue a constant process more than something that could be thought of as an “accomplishment,” too. (And as a tribute to sister “Proud Daughter of Eve,” from now on I commit to reading over my posts in full bifur I hit Send!)

  3. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 7, 2006 at 8:17 pm is where I brush against some of the same thoughts, which I’ve been having.

    But I think it is our weaknesses that bind us together, not our strengths.

  4. Blain on May 8, 2006 at 12:38 am

    1 — You’re closer to where I’m at with this, I think. I see folks missing the middle part of Ether 12:27, and, to me, that’s where the action is. God gives us our weakness that we may be humble, and his grace is sufficient for those who humble themselves before him and have faith in him. If his grace is sufficient for us, then we become strong, not because we are great, but because he is great.

    Some of us need to keep on humbling ourselves before God until we get the point, so this verse isn’t describing an event — it’s describing a process.

  5. Adam Greenwood on May 8, 2006 at 6:45 am

    I’d add a fourth meaning, which is probably more appropriate to the Lincoln example. That meaning is that what appear to be weaknesses are revealed as strengths. Scriptural examples are the Anti Nephi Lehites, and Christ in the atonement.

  6. Mark IV on May 8, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Adam G., thank you for your thoughts on this. Ether 12 is one of my favorite parts of scripture. “My grace is sufficient” always give me hope.

    It is interesting to me that you have an insight I never had – sometimes just the act of recognizing weakness engenders the humility that brings Christ’s grace.

  7. Wade on May 10, 2006 at 10:54 am

    our weaknesses are really malformed virtues, or misapplied virtues….

    There is a lot said here; it is true! Thank you Adam, this is a great post.

  8. John Martin on June 15, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    am a Mormon,but I kind of keep my philosophical thoughs to myself.In reality the subject of reincarnation should not be a shock or mystery.The subject was taught by the early church fathers untill,suppressed by the Emperor Justinian.If one believes in a pre-existence then he would have to believe in mortal probation,like love and marriage they go together.

    In much the same way that Joseph Smith,in private taught plural marriages,he also taught plural probation we get a indication of this by some of the diaries of his wives.If one studies Freemasonry,the Kaballah,and Roscruciasm he would realize that the three philosophies are identical,and what did Joseph Smith study.Right,Freemasonry and the Kabbalah.The essential teachings are the soul continues to evolve untill it reaches a state of perfectionWe Mormons call this eternal progression.The concept is a great mystery to some,and to others there are no other. explanation of truth.Not only was this concept predominating among early Christians, but it has been the belief of every notable philosopher throughout history. From Plato to Emerson.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    \”The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew it passes into other habitations, for the soul is immortal.\” \”It is the secret of the return again. Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals… and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new disguise
    Many of the greatest men of antiquity taught among them being such great names as those of Orpheus, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Apollonius of Tyana, with Ennius and Seneca among the Romans. We find the doctrine in ancient Persia, also among the Druids, and in the Germany of classical times; while it was a cornerstone of the grand mystical religion of old Egypt… For was expounded in the Qabbalah, the esoteric philosophy of the Jews, their secret, mystic teaching; so did Philo, one of the greatest philosophers belonging to the Jewish race and a renowned Neo-Platonist, teach it. So, also, did the celebrated Jewish historian Josephus.

    Heber Kimball had some similar views.
    \”When an unbaked pot is broken, the potter can use the mud to make a new one, but when a baked one is broken, he cannot do the same any longer. So when a person dies in a state of ignorance, he is born again but when he becomes well baked in the fire of true knowledge and dies a perfect man, he is not born again.â€?
    \”When the elements in an organized form do not fill the end of their creation, they are thrown back again, like brother Kimball\’s old pottery ware, to be ground up, and made over again.\” -Brigham Young

    This sounds a little similar to Shakespeare
    All the world\’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts,
    His acts being seven ages.– Shakespeare, As You Like

    a law of cycles of flux and reflux, of cause and effect of manifestations and disappearances, Such as day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking.
    Our earth in the spring discards its white blanket of snow and emerges forth from its periods of rest-its winter sleep. All activities are exerted to bring forth new life everywhere. Time passes, the corn and vegetation are ripened and harvested and again the busy summer fades gradually into the inactivity of Winter; again the snowy Our universe is like a grain of sand on an endless beach, along with the laws of the universe coverlet enwraps the earth but her sleep is not forever, for she will re-awaken to the song of a new spring which will mark for her a little eternal progression along the pathway of time. So with the life of man. Is it conceivable that this law, so perfectly universal, so cosmic in scope should be inoperative in the life of man? Shall the earth awake each year from its winter sleep; shall the trees and flowers live again, shall all the examples of this great law be observed and man die. It is inconceivable and impossible. It will not happen-even if all the religions in the world say that it will. The same law that incites wakefulness in the plant and stirs it to new growth will wake the human being to new experiences on their road to eternal progression, or to the distant goal of perfection Therefore, under the same spiritual laws of the universe. We all follow the same fluctuation of being; .Birth, Youth, Maturity, Decadence and death, and then we enter birth again, to be molded into a better person.

    Each soul continues to evolve. As what was stated in Gandhi’s Bible (The Giita) There was no beginning nor there an end. The wise mourn neither for the living or the dead. There was never a time that we will cease to exist, nor there a future where we cease to be. As worn out garments are shed by the body, worn out bodies are shed by the dweller. Death is certain for the born and rebirth is certain for the dead. We need not grieve for that which is unavoidable and certain. The law of karma states that for every action there is a reaction. Why does a beautiful child die suddenly while a lonely old man lingers on forever? Why are some children charismatic and intelligent while others are slow and dull?
    I have always wished the church would teach this concept,but apparently most are not ready to accept it.Many refer to behave like Bruce McConkie;when a truth is revealed and they don\’t understand it\”This is of Satan,the Devil\”.I believe there is a pathway for everyone.A pathway of dogmas for those like Bruce Mcconkie and pathway of enlighenment simailar to David O. Mckay.\”Seek Spirituality,victory overself,and communion with the infinite\”
    I think we can make the following conclusions:
    That which has a beginning must have an end. The oak may live for centuries, the butterfly for only a few days or hours, both must die. The soul has always been eternal, if it had a beginning it too would have to die… There is no escape from the stern logic of this conclusion. A fragmentary immortality is not realistic, for endless existence after death is conceivable only if the soul is eternally pre-existent

    1. The soul is eternal.

    2. We reap what we sew, the eastern karmic law that states for every action there is a reaction. Our fate today is a reward or punishment for our actions of yesterday. Our actions today will determine our fate tomorrow.

    Someone once said that the death of a dogma represents the birth of a reality.And what is reality?

    General George S. Patton
    \”So as through a glass and darkly, the age long strife I see where I fought in many guises, many names, but always me.\”
    Albert Schweitzer
    \”Reincarnation contains a most comforting explanation of reality by means of which Indian thought surmounts difficulties which baffle the thinkers of Europe.\”
    Walt Whitman
    \”I know I am deathless. No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before. I laugh at what you call dissolution, and I know the amplitude of time.\”
    William Wordsworth
    \”Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; The Soul that rises with us, our life\’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting. And cometh from afar.\”

    Carl Jung
    \”My life often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and no end. I had the feeling that I was an historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had been born again because I had not fulfilled the task given to me.\”

    As the diver puts on his diving suit to go under water, and then removes it when he comes back to the surface, so the spirit, at birth, clothes itself with a human body, and then gives it up, and throws it away, at the time of transition. The play of that specific life ends, and the actor takes off his costume (the body) and readies himself for the next play.
    Many of us were raised in either a Mormon or orthodox Cristian church where it was unthinkable to challenge the authority, of the church and even less the dogmas and doctrines that churches have. We do not have to challenge the authority of leadership, but to have your own idea of truth is far more important and also to wear our knowledge like a watch—do not proclaim the time hourly, but proclaim your knowledge only when asked for it.


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