Every so often I hear myself communicating with some measure of implied or assumed authority. I apologize for the times I do. The truth is I really don’t “know” anything or at least I know very little.
Even as a bishop I did not like to say in my testimony that “I know God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true.” I prefer to say that I believe, perhaps even with all my heart, that such things are true. But I don’t like to say “I know.” The truth is, I only believe most things.
I don’t mean to criticize anyone who believes they do know things. Some of you may “know” much. For me though, I believe, and I want to believe more and receive more and don’t want God to think I have all that I want. I love the example of Abraham who “sought Him earnestly.” This seeking seems to suggest that he did not stop searching. That he was inquisitive and unassuming before meeting the Lord. His reward? “My name is Jehovah…” and the incredible knowledge that followed, not the least of which was the knowledge of God and the receipt of his Exaltation. Or the example of Moses who said:
I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.
Too often I think we beat each other over the heads with our testimonies. As a missionary we were instructed at times to dust our feet, so to speak, in leaving our testimonies with someone who disagreed with us. What a mistake that is in my view.
I think the end result for most of us still in the “belief” stage who share our testimonies in this way, or our perceived “knowledge” is to offend the receiver of our words, rather than to convert them.
Sadly, I think we Mormons tend to be very passive aggressive although we may not realize it. I believe one of the chief reasons that we can’t discuss anything in church is due to this tendency we have. I see the same in many comments online, including on this blog.
For many years I found myself arguing with others in gospel discussions, which in looking back I think we can all agree, goes counter to all that the gospel actually is. I think part of my problem was that I often felt threatened by the ideas or decisions of others, especially those I loved. Now I see that I was insecure and full of pride, not full of love, as I had thought. I want to be better at discussing ideas with others and in loving people despite differences of opinion.
I also no longer like it when someone says “The Lord told me to do or say such and such…” Again, I don’t mean to be critical. Most of us have done this to one degree or another. I certainly have. But, again, I think the effect of this practice generally shuts down communication and ends what could be healthy conversations and relationships.
I would so much prefer to hear someone say, “I think the Lord is trying to tell me to do such and such…” Or “I feel very strongly that I’m being guided, but I simply don’t know… I’m acting on faith…”
One of my best friends in life is so good at this. Ironically, I believe he is closer to the Lord than anyone I know. And yet he rarely uses the Lord’s name in such a way. When we discuss gospel ideas, and I know he knows what he’s talking about, he is still very careful to not force his ideas on me with such statements as “the Lord revealed to me that this idea is true… etc.” I love this trait in my friend. He reminds me that anyone’s ideas may have merit and to be careful to not simply dismiss them, even if they are just free lancing as most of us are.
As I look back upon certain statements I’ve made over the years, I’m embarrassed. Perhaps I’ve informed a congregation that the Lord or the Spirit has just revealed something to me. Or that the Lord has told me to call them or that the Spirit told me to go somewhere. Am I doing this to set myself up as a light? To elicit an effect? To make myself look good? To appear more in tune than others? Do I speak with assumed-authority and throw scriptures at people to beat them down instead of lift them up? I’ve been there and still repeat such mistakes. I seek forgiveness.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we aren’t ever guided. It’s not that the Lord can’t or doesn’t speak to us. But, perhaps often we think He is speaking where He may not be. Or perhaps He is communicating something with us that we simply misunderstand. Or worse, some other force may actually be inspiring us and we think and claim it is the Lord. Why not simply err on the side of complete humility unless the Lord commands otherwise, literally (not maybe).
I seek to engage with others in a way that is more kind and patient and unassuming. Less authoritative. After all, what do most of us really know? We are less than the dust of the earth are we not? We are nothing, which thing perhaps we should begin to suppose.
Now, some of you may be saying “Well, AB what about you and your criticisms of the church and some of its leaders? Isn’t that unkind?” I think that’s a very fair question.
It’s a challenge for me because like many of you, I’ve learned some things about the Church that have been hard to digest. I have experienced something akin to what I’d call the mourning of the loss of something very dear to me. Like most of you, the Church was my identity for almost my entire life.
I spent a few years very angry when I began to realize the Church wasn’t as true as I had thought. Not true to the restoration at least. Not true to Joseph Smith or to the Book of Mormon. Or to the Savior. Or to the truth. And frankly, not true to the poor or to the sick or to those struggling in so many ways.
This discovery for me of truth that had been withheld or perverted inspired some anger, I admit. I don’t feel that way so much anymore. But the mourning stages for me were real and were painful.
An important distinction I make though is that the Brethren AND any other man or woman who claims to be a prophet places a burden upon those in their midst to discern if their message is true or false. Beware of false prophets we are taught! That goes for Thomas or Denver or any human who makes claims of open veils and revelations. It becomes our duty to expose or to believe. It is my understanding that choosing wrongly, leads us to unbelief and misjudgment, things we will held accountable for.
I’m always reminded of how hard it must have been to believe Joseph was a true messenger. Even many of those who first believed, ended up betraying him in the end. Are we any different or better? And then what about John the Baptist? Or Jesus? Even the Son of God came in such a way that most did not believe His message. It must have been even worse for Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lehi and Nephi and all the other holy prophets.
So if I am critical and am sinning, I ask for your forgiveness. For God’s forgiveness. But for now, I believe it is my duty to discern and expose and/or believe and share. I don’t do so with any authority and I attempt to only do so in an unassuming way — in a way that hopefully helps others seek the Lord, and not men. Certainly to not follow men in an idolatrous way as we are so prone to do.
I am hopeful that this year God will bless us to love better and to grow in greater light and knowledge. Especially those of us who claim or think we are awake. Who are here reading these blogs. I hope that as we discuss these things together it can be in a way that is thoughtful and profound. So much is at stake in discovering the truth and in being redeemed.
God bless us all in 2017,
Thank you for putting that into words. I listened to a bishop conduct my Uncle’s funeral last month. I found myself cringing and uncomfortable at his behavior. When I dug deep into why I felt that way, I discovered that I was remembering times where I acted and spoke similarly and it mortified me. So in that moment I had compassion on him and also forgave myself for my ignorance. And I determined to do better at being cautious what I declare. And it has felt liberating. I really appreciate this post putting into words what I’ve been feeling but not taken the time to bring it to the forefront of my consciousness.
Thanks AB, I heard it said one time “when you know that you don’t know that’s when you know.”
AB this post has really struck a cord with me. There seems to be a growing trend among commenters on many of the blogs to write with assumed authority, setting up hedges around perceived beliefs, and communicating in ways that belittle others, trying to cut them off from the very thing that God has honored most, our agency to think and choose.
If God gave Lucifer the right to choose and subsequently rebel, shouldn’t we after some gentle persuasion, allow others to have the same right to reap what they believe? Whatever happened to “Blessed are the Peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 8:9)
I have personally learned a lot from comments and usually read all of them, but when a few highjack the blog by entrenched bantering, then others are ignored or silenced and often the original spirit of the post becomes lost.
The martyrdom of the prophet Joseph Smith left us without Zion. Zion remains a future event and if this blessed event is to occur, then there will have to be less judging, condemning and belittling of others and more civility in our communications.
Here’s to the right to choose and the freedom to think and act as one desires.
Another great post, AB, keep up the good work, all the best.
Nice piece. Stumbled on this the other day. Don’t know how I missed it?
Ezekiel 33:1-? well worth reading?
When a person truly receives revelation for himself, it is a sign that they have connected with heaven. When a person truly receives priesthood power, that also means they have connected with heaven. So this seems to be one of those things where if A = B and B = C then A = C. What I am getting at is that if a person truly receives priesthood power by connecting with heaven and then attempts to use that power to control, dominate, or exercise compulsion on another, they lose it. It is the same with revelation. If a person has established a connection with heaven to the point they begin to receive revelation but then uses that/those revelation(s) to control, dominate, or exercise compulsion on another they will lose that connection with heaven. The only legitimate use of anyone’s connection with heaven in regards to another is by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge.
All personal revelation is only anecdotal to any other person. Your revelation is not necessarily my revelation and thus should not be used with me to get me to believe something or do something you do or believe. Again the only legitimate way one has to get another person to his/her point of view is persuasion accompanied with all those other traits expressed by Joseph Smith in that great revelation.
It seems like the perfect time to share the famous Mark Twain quote here:
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
After realizing “the Church” (meaning the institutional / corporate Church) isn’t true about a year ago, I felt like I was punched in the gut. I have had a series of revelations over the last few years, that that have removed me from the Matrix, but the truth about “the Church” was the biggest. I had felt for years that some of the Brethren (the 12) were deceived because they fought so little for Liberty (and the Constitution) on the one hand, and promoted (by association) the United Nations (and tyranny) on the other hand. But after peeling off the layers of self-imposed holiness and finding so many examples of obvious corruption and unrighteous dominion, I definitely relate to Mark Twain’s quote and to what your post says.
To the point where all I have left of so-called knowledge is the idea that God exists. I have had supernatural or spiritual experiences that have obliterated all doubt that God lives, and that the BoM is true, and Joseph Smith was a prophet. But beyond that, I feel I know nothing. I walk by faith.
Now with the prospects of the temple construction upon us, along with the PTB who will surely wage a savage economic and perhaps military war against Trump (assuming he is not one of “them”), I sense that we are on the cusp of an era analogous to the Kirtland saints who sacrificed much to build a temple unto the Lord.
Our idolatry and the objects of our whoredoms must be put on the altar now. Time is running out. And yet I’ve had these feelings before, but the apocalypse hasn’t occurred. A difference now though is that we haven’t seen a true outsider elected president in our lifetimes (excepting JFK who turned against the PTB), so I think because of Trump, that we may finally feel what other regime-changed nations have gone through. We are the next Syria, the next Libya, the next Iraq, the next Korea, the next Vietnam. Desolation of Nehors is coming our way. I don’t see any imminent rejection of our idolatry preventing it from coming. What happened to the Jaredites and Nephites will happen to us as a nation.
But then again, I feel I really don’t know anything either. I just must have faith in Christ and trust in Him. I know that many millions of Christians worldwide have an idea that He exists, and they seek to follow Him. I believe in Humanity, and pray that we will triumph over our idolatry esp with some prodding of God who is wiser than us all.
Humble, sincere, human, from-the-heart, real. Good post. Thanks.
What is PTB?
It’s ok, I’ve just figured it out, I think.
Powers That Be?
Thank you for posting this. It really touched me and help me see things I need to work on also. Thank you for writing these posts and keep it up!
As ever, I enjoyed your comments and humility. Each of us evolves spiritually on an individual path and within a unique pattern.
Years ago I endured a terrible hurt by my then husband and the church, just one of many by both. In anguish I called out to God, begging him to help me understand what “I had done wrong to warrant this pain, I howled out, why are you doing this to me. I don’t understand, please help me understand. Moments amid my gasping for air later, the Lord said quietly and clearly, “I did not do this to you. Your husband did this to you!”
Revelation wasn’t complete until I cried out, “I don’t understand!” To which the Lord responding said, “sometimes understanding doesn’t make a difference!”
I’ve taken him at his word. It’s helped me also know when others don’t understand me, my perspectives, etc, perhaps it wouldn’t make a difference if they did.
My duty is to understand the gospel and follow it laws and spirit as best I can, wether or not I always have an understanding of why.
For example, this week I watched a documentary that offered info abt water. I could not believe the impact prayer has upon the structure of water. I’ve always blessed food before eating, but now know blessing water before drinking is very important to me as I strive to honor both God and my body (the latter comprised of more than 70 percent water).
In this small bit of understanding my obedience is now attached to love … It is marvelous.
AB you offer many truths that mingle with my beliefs and perspectives. Over time I have faith, much of what you share will evidence itself to be true.