Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sariah's Breaking Point: Diffusing Anger in a Relationship, Guest Post by Kenzie

 Detail from "Lehi’s Exodus Into the Wilderness"  By Tandy Iverson

I was always a little bit bothered by the story in 1 Nephi 5, where Nephi relates the story of his mother complaining against his father. I mean, surely the woman who raised Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph and was married to the prophet Lehi was an amazing and spiritual woman in her own right? Instead it seems like one of the few stories totally dedicated to her was spent showing one of her weakest moments. Why would Nephi choose to include this story when he's going back later and writing the plates? Was this story in there to show how women should just be subservient to their husbands and not question any decision; even when her husband sends all her sons on a death trip back through the dangerous desert to get plates from an angry and violent man?

I think that there's a much deeper meaning and lesson in this story.

I think Nephi felt prompted to show us a woman at her breaking point. She's been dealing with everything the best she can, and now this is her breaking point. For as Nephi said, "She truly mourned for us." She sincerely thought her sons were dead. I think this story shows us how to deal with conflict in a marriage. The way both Lehi and Sariah handle this situation is so important.

First, if Sariah is saying things to Lehi like, "You are such a visionary man, Lehi! You've taken me from my home, you've lead me into the desert, you've made me leave all of our physical possessions, and now you've killed my sons! This is all your fault Lehi!" Most of us would default to our knee jerk reaction: we'd meet fire with fire. Lehi could have jumped right to it and said, "Well you're not doing so hot yourself Sariah! I mean look at this tent! It's always sandy! Look at what we're eating! I mean most days you don't even cook the stuff! You just slap it down raw!" Or more likely in my mind, "I am the prophet! How dare you talk to the prophet like that! How dare you talk to the patriarch of this family like that!"

Instead he says, "I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness. And after this manner did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us . . ."

I feel like this whole story is in the Book of Mormon to show us how to deal with similar situations. I know all of us will have something similar happen in our own relationships, and I think Lehi exhibits three characteristics of good communication we should follow. You've heard the saying, "Act, don't react." Well REacting would be that knee-jerk reaction, and ACTing follows this acronym.

A: Agree with them: Lehi started by saying, "You're right. I am a visionary man." Christ also taught this principle in Matthew 5:25, "Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him . . ."Agreeing with the arguer doesn't mean that we believe what they're saying is 100% correct, but it's a very good communication principle. Have you ever watched the body language of someone who's full of frustration? They almost look like they're all puffed up and full of air. When you agree with what they're saying right off the bat, they deflate. They weren't expecting that and their frustration dissolves into slight confusion. You'll get the chance to talk then. Being able to say "You're right. I can be selfish some times", "You're right, sometimes I really struggle with pride" shows a great deal of humility and a very Christ-like attitude. When we really want any relationship to succeed, we have to make  humility a key characteristic. A relationship won't succeed when pride creeps in.

C: Comfort them: Lehi understood the underlying need Sariah had. He looked past her angry words and saw that she was hurting. She was hurting because she loved so much. Surely her ability to love was one of the things that Lehi was drawn to when he married her. She's mourning for her lost sons, and Lehi recognized that and doesn't let her tone of voice change his reaction. He said, "I know why you're hurting. You're afraid and I recognize that." In our daily communication, we really need to figure out the underlying needs. My religion teacher gave me an acronym for some basic underlying needs he's seen in all his years of counseling. It is CRUCIAL:

  • C - Competency: We all have the need to feel competent at something. At different times in our lives it may change, but we always have something we need to feel good at. Even little children pick up on this when they say, "Mommy, so-and-so is good at this, and so-and-so is good at this. I'm not good at anything!" In relationships, we should keep tabs on what things other people have a need to feel competent at, and we should never ever pick on those areas. 
  • R - Reconciliation with God: I'm learning this principle for myself first hand. This is the strongest and most basic need of all. If our relationship with God is not harmonious, we tend to be needy in different areas of our life. One person may feel like everyone else isn't meeting their needs, but in reality nothing can change unless that person is first close to God. There's nothing everyone else can do until that person makes that step.
  • U - Understanding: One of the biggest blocks to communication is everyone's desire to be understood. We don't want to share some things specifically because we fear others will misunderstand. Everybody needs someone that can validate and accept their opinions even if they don't agree with all of them.
  • C - Closeness: Everyone needs someone to share their joys, successes, failures, and accomplishments with. Even people who aren't married feel this need. My idea is that's how social networking got started. People needed to find other people that could applaud their success.
  • I - Independence: Opposite to the previous one, everybody needs privacy, space, individual interests, hobbies, and friends. Sometimes if we get too close it can be like porcupines and we may bounce away quickly. There's a balancing act between closeness and independence because we all have to feel like our own person still. 
  • A - Appreciation: Everyone needs to know that their efforts are recognized. We may not expect some reward in return for the service we give, but we still need to know that people recognize that we're doing something. Once a councilor asked the Bishop if they should send thank you notes to the relief societies who contributed a lot to a huge activity, and the Bishop responded with, "We don't thank people in this church." How wrong that is! Everybody needs to be thanked, even if they are doing it for service. Expecting recognition is not evil nor does it diminish the service. It is a basic need.
  • L - Love: This may seem self-explanatory but there's a part here you may not have thought of. Everyone has the desire to feel lovable! Lovable means feeling attractive and feeling desirable. We all need to feel like a person other people would like to hang out with. Even people who break norms and feel like outsiders still need to feel like there are certain people in the world who would like to hang out with them. 
So we need to pay attention when people around us seem angry, frustrated, or upset. Usually what comes out of their mouth is not the real problem. Usually, it's something related to one of the above underlying needs.

T: Testify and Teach:  Lehi ends with his testimony and uses his testimony to comfort Sariah, since comfort was what she needed. The account of this story concludes with this,
"And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak." 
These two verses are why I say Sariah is an amazing role model. It isn't until this very point that she gains a witness for herself that the Lord gave her husband the revelation. Until this point, she's been acting completely in faith! Isn't that amazing?!? She didn't have a personal witness, but was willing to leave her home, travel to some unknown place, give up everything she'd worked hard for, take her children into the dangerous desert, and allow them to travel back on a death mission! She was acting completely by faith up until this point!

Holy smokes, what a great woman!

Now after her personal witness she sounds exactly like Nephi! When we use our testimony in arguments, we allow the spirit to come in and make up the difference. After everything we can do, the spirit is what will change the other person's heart and help fill their underlying need.

There's more to Sariah's story, but I feel like Nephi put this little part in for a couple reasons. One, to show us that even the wife of the prophet hit a point where faith wasn't enough. Two, to show us how to diffuse the angry conversations that will occur in our lives. Three, to show us what amazing faith his mother had. And fourth, to show us how Sariah gained her own testimony of this huge venture.

Kenzie is a recently married Shakespeare enthusiast who loves acting, playing the piano, and singing music. She loves raspberries, chocolate, and a good Agatha Christie. She is almost ready to graduate as a Biological Science Teacher and accordingly loves plants, flowers, and science. Recently Kenzie has taken to musing about all things LDS women related on her blog, Divine Nature of Women, and is trying to find her place in her Heavenly Father's plan. 


  1. thanks for this insite has helped me so much!

  2. Awesome, don't you love it when we are allowed more insight? This is so timely, I received the latest Ensign and there is a wonderful article on"Nine Principles for a successful marriage and family".This will just enhance that study.
    Thank you.

  3. Kenzie, this makes so much sense to me! I love understanding things better and I'm so grateful people like you share your thoughts when you come to see deeper meanings than I'm able to. It has inspired me and I plan to incorporate parts of it in the next Relief Society lesson I teach.

    Thank you, Heather, for sharing this guest post . . . I know I can always come here for insight. And I need it!

  4. Love it! Thank you for sharing! Just what I needed to hear today!

  5. I hadn't thought about Sariah's story like this before. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I recently came upon this blog via Pinterest. I've been reading your posts back to back. I would just like to first compliment you. You're such a good writer. It keeps me coming back for more. Second, I wanted to thank you for your uplifting insights & view on gospel topics. It's so wonderful to visit your point of views & tie them into my own perspective. Thank you!

  7. Just read this in doing my own study of these first chapters. I had to post a blog for my assignment. I foundy ours when I was looking for a picture. you are much more detialed and elquoent but I was really excited to read your thoughts and insights.