Fearless: Mothering Zion
By Lani Axman
We know he is coming
To gather his sheep
And lead them to Zion in love,
For why in the valley
Of death should they weep
Or in the lone wilderness rove?
(Redeemer of Israel, Hymn #6)
One of Satan’s primary weapons is fear, and as the world grows more and more destructive and evil, I believe that fear will be the downfall of many. “And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88:91). I know from personal experience how debilitating and destructive fear can be. I recently emerged from a life-and-death battle with anxiety/depression myself. Fear is the enemy. Fear will destroy us if we let it. It nearly destroyed me.
Personally, I believe that the women bearing children now are mothering Zion-builders. If we and our children are going to survive the turmoil ahead of us, if we are going to build Zion, we have to leave fear in the past. We have to become fearless and teach our children to do the same. Before we can build the New Jerusalem on earth, we have to build that “city of peace” within ourselves. We have to become the New Lani or the New Marie or the New Jessica… new and improved, with salem/shalom or peace/security/wholeness at our cores.
I’ve been doing an extensive study of Zion over the past several months. I’ve learned more awesomeness than I could share in this brief post, but I do want to give you three keys to becoming fearless mothers of Zion gleaned from my recent studies.
1) New Eyes
Without eyes to see the truth, we are much more vulnerable to fear. But we can “inoculate” ourselves against fear with new eyes. President Boyd K. Packer explained that “the word inoculate has two parts: in—’to be within’—and oculate means ‘eye to see'” (Source). I love this story from 2 Kings, chapter 6. Dallin H. Oaks summarizes it well:
Because Elisha had helped the kingdom of Israel repel the Syrians, they sent a great army with horses and chariots to capture the prophet. When Elisha’s young servant saw the armies surrounding their city, he cried out in fear, but Elisha reassured him:
“Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:16–17.)
The Lord intervened to confuse and blind the Syrians, and they were taken prisoners by the armies of Israel.
When I read this wonderful story as a boy, I always identified with the young servant of Elisha. I thought, If I am ever surrounded by the forces of evil while I am in the Lord’s service, I hope the Lord will open my eyes and give me faith to understand that when we are in the work of the Lord, those that are with us are always more powerful than those that oppose us. (Source)
With new eyes, Elisha’s servant was no longer afraid. If we, too, are to become fearless, we must cultivate spiritual sight… the ability to see things as they really are… to see what God sees. Sometimes this kind of “seeing” has very little to do with our eyes and much more to do with the processing of what we see—what we think about what we see. We can train ourselves out of a gut-fear-reaction when presented with something “scary” by constantly filtering what we see through the eyes of God: “What would God see here?”
2) New Minds
The way we process what we see has a lot to do with our minds. So much of fear begins in the mind, so the mind is a huge key to breaking the fear cycle. Romans 12:2 reads, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and 2 Timothy 1:7 teaches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” I love what Sheridan has to say about this subject in our book: “How can we make our minds firm and let go of any fears we have learned or inherited? Karl Menninger has said, ‘Fears are educated into us and can, if we wish, be educated out.’ Hypnosis and meditation are great tools for harnessing the power of your mind and unlearning deep-set fears” (p. 285).
Felice’s “Meditation” essay describes how meditation can help us transform our minds and thought-patterns:
Every time you think or act, your brain creates a neuro-pathway. The more you do it—the more energy you attach to certain thoughts or actions—the deeper that pathway becomes. Just like when a hose is left on in the dirt—the water cuts a deeper and deeper groove. Let’s say that deepening rut is your negative thoughts. Pretty soon other related thoughts and feelings start to fall in that groove—which means that you increasingly get into a similar state. Meditation creates new neuro-pathways which will eventually allow for new feelings and thoughts. (p. 201)
(You can learn much more about meditation on Felice’s website.) As we create new neuro-pathways and thought patterns, designed by God instead of Satan, our minds will become fearless.
3) New Songs
Psalms 40:3 reads: “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and [stand in awe], and shall trust in the Lord.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Zion’s builders/inhabitants over the past few months it is this: they SING. Over and over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy.” Zion mothers are singing mothers. And God’s praises fill their mouths.
The story of the Jaredites crossing the ocean to the Promised Land illustrates the power of such songs:
And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind. . . . And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord. . . . And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them. (Ether 6:6-12)
It took 344 days for the Jaredites to cross to the Promised Land. They sang without ceasing for 344 days! And I have a hunch that it wasn’t just because they liked singing. I think it’s because they understood an important truth about music: singing diminishes fear. I imagine the Jaredite mothers sang their children’s fears (and their own) away as the endless waves and winds beat upon their vessels.
When you use your voice as a sound instrument, powerful things happen inside of you. Among those:
* Your heart rate relaxes and decreases.
* Your blood pressure decreases.
* Your stress [fear] hormones decrease.
* Your body enhances the release of endorphins.
(Source: Meditation as Medicine, p. 114)
A recent study out of Turkey also found that singing in a choir is associated with reduced anxiety levels (Source). Sometimes when I’m having a hard day, my toddler will say to me, “Sing, Mommy! Sing!” It makes me smile because she’s learning at some level within her soul that singing can chase away our fears and sorrows.
Singing is a key to becoming a fearless Zion mother. In the beginning, our songs may simply be tools to chase the fears and worries from our hearts. We will sing as a coping mechanism in a fear-filled world. But eventually those songs will become so much a part of us that we will not be able to keep from singing. We will fill the air with our voices and songs of everlasting joy. We will be fearless. We will be Zion.