What does it mean to be “carnal”? No, it doesn’t refer to someone who eats meat — that would be a carnivore. It does relate to flesh — not the eating of it but rather the pleasing of it.
There are many things we can do that please our human forms. Many of these are not sinful. In general, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying life and doing things that make you happy. However, when the things of the flesh become foremost in our mind, we then have what is referred to as a “carnal mind,” one that seeks out things that please the flesh, whether they are sinful or not, typically overriding the prompting of the Spirit of God.
In Mosiah 16, Abinadi continues to speak to King Noah and his priests, all of whom clearly were operating with carnal minds — each had many wives and concubines and were committing whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.
Notice all the references to sexual impropriety in describing King Noah and his priests. Although there are other ways to be carnal, sex typically tops the list. If you look up the word “carnal” on Google, you’ll see the following listed as synonyms: sexual, sensual, erotic, lustful, lascivious. If you were asked to identify a flesh-pleasing activity that can be on people’s minds constantly, that can influence their actions and cause them to do things without any concern for whether they are sinful, sex would be the obvious answer.
It’s no surprise that sex is on the minds of seemingly everyone since it’s in our face wherever we turn. Advertisements tell us we’ll have more of it if we buy their products. Movies and TV shows depict the cool people as the ones who are doing it all the time. Current fashion is designed to show off certain body parts that cause lust. Even the one game show that my family watches on TV now includes questions that require explicit sexual responses in order to win the game.
Let’s face it — we live in a carnal world that is set up to develop our minds to be increasingly carnal, not spiritual. I especially worry about all of our children who are growing up in this world and are likely developing carnal minds too. On the one hand, it’s part of being human. On the other hand, it’s not a state that any of us should be comfortable remaining in. As Abinadi said to the carnal King Noah and his priests:
“He that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him.” (Mosiah 16:5)
Being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost is a great first step toward bringing our carnal nature into subjection (rather than “persisting in it”). However, it is only a first step. With all of the carnal messages that surround us on a daily basis and the perceived norms of sexual behavior in this day and age, even believers in Christ will be tempted to indulge — sometimes to the point of having to refrain from sacrament, or even worse, partaking unworthily.
What can we do if we want to keep the carnal mind at bay? The best approach is to focus on how much we love the Lord. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Do we love Him enough to sacrifice for Him? Can we sing the words of this hymn?
“My Jesus, I love Thee, I know thou art mine. For thee all the pleasures of sin I resign.”
Who loves Jesus enough to be a “living sacrifice”? Who can answer with a resounding YES when Jesus asks, “Lovest thou me more than these?” Let it be us! Instead of being one of the many who fit in with the carnal world, let’s choose to be the exception, overcoming the carnal mind with heart, mind, and soul focused on Jesus Christ and living a life for Him.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.