In Exodus 5 there is an interchange between Moses and Pharoah where the prophet asks Pharoah to let the Israelites “rest from their burdens” and go and “hold a feast in the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:1,5).
Pharoah responds with the command that from this time forth the Israelites will continue their construction of bricks but without the straw necessary – “ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.” (Exodus 5:7)
The insinuation here is that if the Israelites have the time to concern themselves with worshiping God, they clearly have too much time on their hands. If Pharoah can keep them busy gathering straw for their bricks, then perhaps they will not be such a nuisance to him.
We all have bricks that we must build in our lives. To the students in seminary, their bricks are primarily their schoolwork. Their studies represent the work they must perform for “their daily bread.” Adults make bricks as well. I have a friend who is an airline pilot – he flies planes for his bricks. I teach youth. Everyone has their tally of bricks that they must make, and the work never stops. Sometimes we become unbalanced and desire more than our daily bread, in an effort to do more or to be more, or at times, due to the demands of the world, we wind up making bricks without straw.
I asked the youth in my classes today how we can become so focused on our straw gathering that we become too busy to “hold a feast in the wilderness” to worship the Lord. What does this look like in the lives of youth? Many of my young men responded that they are playing video games excessively to the point that it has impacted other areas of their lives.
Gordon B. Hinckley stated: “We need to build ourselves spiritually… we live in a world of rush and go, running here and there nad in every direction. We are very busy people. We have so much to do. We need to get off by ourselves once in a while and think of spiritual things and build ourselves spiritually… Get by yourself and think of things of the Lord, of things of the Spirit… Just meditate and reflect for an hour about yourself and your relationship to your Heavenly Father and your Redeemer. It will do something for you.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977], pp. 608-9.)
President David O. McKay taught that meditation is a form of prayer and will help us overcome the temptations of the adversary. He said, “Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord. Jesus set the example for us. As soon as he was baptized and received his Father’s approval… Jesus repaired to what is now known as the mount of temptation. I like to think of it as the mount of meditation where, during the forty days of fasting, he communed with himself and his Father, and contemplated upon the responsibility of his great mission. One result of this spiritual communion was such strength as enabled him to say to the tempter: get thee hence Satan.” (CR April 1946, p. 113)
With this being the result of his time to meditate and worship, it makes sense that Lucifer would want the saints too busy with the noise of the world, to have time to go and worship the Lord.
President Packer stated: “The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.” (Reverence Invites Revelation, Ensign, November, 1991).
C.S. Lewis described the brick manufacturing mentality of the world in which we live in The Screwtape Letters. In this depiction of two devils speaking of ways to wreak havoc among mortals we read, “We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction… the melodies and silence of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.” (The Screwtape Letters [New York: The Macmillan Co., 1973], p.103.)
Exodus 5:12 illustrates what happens when we try to build bricks without straw. “So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.” They were scattered gathering stubble. Oftentimes we spend much time gathering stubble when it need not be. We had a great discussion in class on the importance of pouring our energy into building the right bricks in our lives.