Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Finding Answers

                My post for last Sunday was about the Parable of the Ten Virgins and how it applies to each of us.  The parable tells us that we must have a reserve of “oil” for our “lamps” as we wait for the Savior Jesus Christ to return.  We increase the oil in our lamps as we become spiritually self-reliant.

                An important part of becoming self-reliant is to learn how to find answers to our own gospel questions.  Revelation usually comes when we are sincerely seeking answers to our questions.  The Savior promised that He would give us answers if we sought them with faith in Jesus Christ.  We can find answers to our own questions as we pray, study the scriptures and the words of living prophets, and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

                Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often asked questions about our religion and how it helps people.  Consider the following questions suggested in Preach My Gospel:  What is the role of the Book of Mormon?  How is the Book of Mormon the keystone of our religion?  How does the Book of Mormon answer the great questions of the soul?   Why is the Book of Mormon so powerful in the conversion process?  How should I use the Book of Mormon to build faith and help others to draw closer to God?  Why is the promise in Moroni 10:3-5 central in missionary work?

                “The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ.  It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.  [In order effectively teach others] you must first have a personal testimony that the Book of Mormon is true.  This testimony can lead to a deep and abiding faith in the power of the Book of Mormon during the conversion process.  Have confidence that the Holy Ghost will testify to anyone who reads and ponders the Book of Mormon and asks God if it is true with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ.  This witness of the Holy Ghost should be a central focus…” (Preach My Gospel, p. 107). 

                What do you think the Lord expects us to do when we have questions?  He expects us to become actively involved in finding the answers.  The following scriptures teach principles that will help us seek answers to our own questions. 

                “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7; emphasis added). 

                “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit.  If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
                “Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:14-15; emphasis added).

                “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
                “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
                “But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9; emphasis added).

                I know these principles are true because I have put them into practice in my life.  I know that the Lord is interested in almost everything we do because I have received answers for how to plan my day and what color of paint to purchase.  I know that God hears every prayer, and I also know that answers do not come easily.  I have learned that I must be sincere about my request, meaning that I really want to know the answer and I must be willing to accept the answer.

                Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles related a story found in Mark 9:14-27.  This story is about a father who sought help from the Apostles for his son who had a “dumb spirit.”  The father said to Jesus, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.
                “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
                “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (verses 22-24).

                Elder Holland continued, “With this tender scriptural record as a backdrop, I wish to speak directly to the young people of the Church – young in years of age or young in years of membership or young in years of faith  One way or another, that should include just about all of us.

                “Observation number one regarding this account is that when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation.  His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation:  `Lord, I believe.’  I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man!  In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited.  In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us.  When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.  It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, `If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you’ [Matthew 17:20].  The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue – it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.

                The second observation is a variation of the first.  When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your `unbelief.’  That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak!  Let me be clear on this point:  I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have.  I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith.  It is not!  So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account:  Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another.  But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle

                “Furthermore, you have more faith than you think you do because of what the Book of Mormon calls `the greatness of the evidences’ [Helaman 5:50].  `Ye shall know them by their fruits,’ Jesus said, [Matthew 7:16] and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in the lives of Latter-day Saints everywhere.  As Peter and John said once to an ancient audience, I say today, `We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,’ and what we have seen and heard is that `a notable miracle hath been done’ in the lives of millions of members of this Church.  That cannot be denied.  [See Acts 4, 16, 20.]

                “Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved.  They do and they will.  In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know.  And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.

                “So be kind regarding human frailty – your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women.  Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.  That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it.  So should we.  And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.  As one gifted writer has suggested when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.  [Adapted from Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2 vols. (1883), 2:108.]  Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.

                “Last observation:  When doubt or difficulty come[s], do not be afraid to ask for help.  If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of `real intent,’ pursued `with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God’  [2 Nephi 31:13].  I testify that in response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief….”

                How can you use Elder Holland’s observations when you or someone you know has questions or doubt about the gospel?

                Why do you think the Lord wants us to ask questions?  What is the difference between asking questions about the gospel and doubting its truthfulness?  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained that we need to ask questions because inquiry leads to truth.  He said that asking questions leads to growth.

                “What about doubts and questions?  How do you find out that the gospel is true?  Is it all right to have questions about the Church or its doctrine?  My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth.  That is the way the Church got its start --- from a young man who had questions.  In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions.  In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question.  Whenever a question arose and Joseph Smith wasn’t sure of the answer, he approached the Lord, and the results are the wonderful revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Often the knowledge Joseph received extended far beyond the original question.  That is because not only can the Lord answer the questions we ask but, even more importantly, He can give us answers to questions we should have asked.  Let us listen to those answers.

                “The missionary effort of the Church is founded upon honest investigators asking heartfelt questions.  Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony.  Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way.  Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.

                “God commands us to seek answers to our questions (see James 1:5-6) and asks only that we seek `with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ’ (Moroni 10:4).  When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us `by the power of the Holy Ghost.’ (Moroni 10:5).” 

                I encourage you to begin looking for the answers to your questions in the scriptures, words of living prophets, and other Church resources.  I know you can find the answers to your own gospel questions.

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