Everything the Lord does is motivated by His love for us.
Nephi mourned because of the destruction of his descendants which he was shown in vision. Because of his great love for him and indeed for all his children, the Lord showed Nephi how his people would be restored to the testimony of Christ through the Gentiles in the last days.
These are some of my favorite scriptures describing the magnitude of God’s love. The Lord “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him” (2 Nephi 26:24). He invites the ends of the earth to come and “buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” He desires all to “partake of his salvation” which he has given “free for all men,” for “all men are privileged the one like unto the other,” “and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:27, 28, 33).
Because of this great love, God will not forget his people. His prophets would “speak unto them out of the dust” through a long-buried record. He “will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state.” He describes this mighty work a “marvelous work and a wonder” (2 Nephi 25:17).
The Book of Mormon is essential to God’s latter-day work.
Because both the Jews and the Gentiles living in the latter days would be living in a state of apostasy from the truth, Nephi quotes Isaiah 29 from the plates of brass. These verses describe a people whose sins have made them “drunken” and susceptible to the influence of Satan. They have intentionally “closed their eyes” to the truth and the messages of the prophets who have been sent to warn them. Therefore, the Lord will “bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered” (2 Nephi 27:5-6). However, these words will be “sealed” and only a portion of them shall be revealed, to try the faith of those that receive them, until the “own due time of the Lord,” when they will come forth and “reveal all things from the foundation of the world until the end thereof” (2 Nephi 27:10-11).
This book would be given to a man, Joseph Smith, who would deliver to our generation the words of the book from the unsealed portion. The Book of Mormon is tangible evidence of Joseph’s Smith’s call as a prophet of God. God will respect the agency of his children, and will allow them to exercise their faith in what they have received. He will give them enough to know that it is true if they seek this knowledge, but they must choose to believe.
I love this quote by Hugh Nibley:
But why this crippling limitation on our thoughts if we are God’s children? It is precisely this limitation that is the essence of our mortal existence. If every choice I make expresses a preference, if the world I build up is the world I really love and want, then with every choice I am judging myself, proclaiming all the day long to God, angels, and my fellowmen where my real values lie, where my treasure is, the things to which I give supreme importance. Hence, in this life every moment provides a perfect and foolproof test of your real character, making this life a time of testing and probation.
(Hugh Nibley, On the Timely and the Timeless, 264, Approaching Zion, 1989, edited by Don E. Norton, 66; originally written in “Zeal Without Knowledge”)
Terryl and Fiona Givens have also written about this principle:
The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true and which we have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing to be true. There must be grounds for doubt as well as for belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension… what we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.
Terryl & Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, 2012, 4.
If Mormon were writing this he would probably make this one of his “and thus we see” moments. And thus we see that God wants his children to be strong, and strength only comes from exercise. Spiritual strength is obtained only by the exercise of faith. And one must choose to have faith.
“Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it” (2 Nephi 27:18).
In February 1828, Martin Harris took a “journey east to New York City with a transcription of some of the characters on the [golden] plates to show them to scholars. Perhaps he wanted additional reassurance that the plates were authentic, or he may have thought a testimonial would help them borrow money to publish the translation. In any event, he insisted that the Lord had prompted him to make the trip.
“At the time, neither Joseph nor Martin knew much about the language on the plates. They knew only as much as the angel Moroni had told Joseph: that it was an ancient American record. Thus, rather than seeking a scholar with a knowledge of Egyptian (Joseph later learned that the language on the plates was called ‘reformed Egyptian’), Martin visited several scholars with an interest in antiquities, especially American antiquities.
“… [Among the scholars Martin visited was] Charles Anthon, a young professor of grammar and linguistics at Columbia College. Anthon had been collecting American Indian stories and speeches for publication and was eager to inspect the document Martin brought him.
“Martin claimed that Anthon declared the characters authentic until he learned how Joseph Smith had acquired them. He suggested Martin bring him the plates. Martin refused, and Anthon replied, paraphrasing a verse in Isaiah, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ Though Anthon later denied the details of Martin’s account of their meeting, we do know this: Martin came away from his visits with the eastern scholars more convinced than ever that Joseph Smith was called of God and that the plates and characters were ancient. He and Joseph viewed the visit to Anthon as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (also mentioned in the Book of Mormon itself) of ‘a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed’ [Isaiah 29:11; see also 2 Nephi 27:15–18]” (“The Contributions of Martin Harris,” Revelations in Context , 3–4, history.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).
Professor Anthon fits Nephi’s description of the learned man. One notes the exactness of the prophecy— the unlearned one was given the book and the words, while the learned man was only given the words even though he asked for the book. The man who was not learned was Joseph Smith, who had only received a few years of formal schooling. He was wholly incapable of reading it or translating it on his own. The utter impossibility of Joseph Smith producing it in any other way than in the way he described—by the gift and power of God, is a significant witness for the truth of the Book of Mormon.
When I was in graduate school at BYU in 1994, I was asked by a friend to give a business associate from the Czech Republic a tour of BYU. However, I was told that since he was a heavy smoker, I would need to take him off campus once in a while so he could do so. And so it happened that Mirek Mierejovski, a retired preacher from the Czech Republic from the Church of Christ Brotherhood, the Czech national religion, visited my Old Testament class at BYU when Isaiah 29 was discussed. He seemed riveted to the discussion of Martin Harris taking the characters to Charles Anthon. When the class was over, I made my way out into the crowded hall, thinking my guest was following right behind me. I panicked as I searched the hall and there was no sign of him! I turned around and returned to the classroom, and there he was, deep in discussion with the teacher. He said that he had read these verses countless times during his life, but this was the first time anyone had provided an explanation as to their meaning. He was enchanted and entranced! He wanted to know more! He loved the Church more and more as he learned about the “marvelous work and a wonder” of the Restoration. From that day on, I never looked at that chapter from Isaiah without great gratitude for my knowledge of its importance. I marveled that a prophet such as Isaiah would have recorded the details of such a specific event in Church history so long before it took place.
Joseph was told through Nephi’s writings not to open the sealed portion of the book, for it was destined to come forth at a later time. Once the book was translated and the designated witnesses had seen the book, it would be given back to Moroni who would hide it up again. God described his reasons for doing this: “For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith” (2 Nephi 27:23). God said that his reason for doing it this way was that, although he is a God of miracles, he only works with his children of all ages through faith. Otherwise, they would experience no real progression, and there would be no real reason for creating the earth and sending men to their “first estate,” that God may “prove them herewith to see if they do all things whatsoever their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:24-25). It would be like taking a test with all the answers written on the board.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said this:
And how could we learn about obedience if we were shielded from the consequences of our disobedience? We are cocooned, as it were, in order that we might truly choose. Once, long ago, we chose to come to this very setting where we could choose. It was an irrevocable choice! And the veil is the guarantor that that choice will be honored.
Eventually, the veil that now encloses us will be no more. Neither will time. (D&C 84:100.) Time is clearly not our natural dimension. Thus it is that we are never really at home in time. Alternately, we find ourselves wishing to hasten the passage of time or to hold back the dawn. We can do neither, of course, but whereas the fish is at home in water, we are clearly not at home in time-because we belong to eternity. Time, as much as any one thing, whispers to us that we are strangers here.
The veil (which is both the film of forgetting and the border between mortality and eternity) will, one day, be shown to have been a succoring screen for us earthlings. Were it possible to breach it on the wrong terms, we would see and experience, before we are ready, things that would moot much of the value in this mortal experience. Remember, we are being proven as to our faith and fitted for strenuous chores to be done elsewhere. To change the nature of this necessary experience by premature commingling would mean that we would not be suitable company for those we yearn to be with, nor would we be ready to go where they are ready to go, nor to do the things that they have painstakingly learned to do. There is no other way!
(All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, 6-27)
Satan seeks to deceive.
President Marion G. Romney taught:
Latter-day Saints know that there is a God. With like certainty, they know that Satan lives, that he is a powerful personage of spirit, the archenemy of God, of man, and of righteousness.(“Satan—The Great Deceiver,” Ensign, June 1971, 35) He then described one of Satan’s methods:
Satan is a skillful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine. (36)
President Spencer W. Kimball concurs:
Satan uses every possible device to accomplish his purpose to degrade and enslave every soul. He attempts to distort and corrupt everything created for the good of man—sometimes by diluting that which is good, sometimes by camouflaging that which is evil.
(Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969, 218–19).
The Book of Mormon would come forth in a day of many churches, each claiming to be the true church of God. However, they would contend one with another, denying the gifts of the Spirit, saying that they have been done away with, or are no longer needed in God’s work on earth. The principle attribute of all of these “counterfeits” is that they require no faith. Each is styled differently, but they all put their trust in man and not in God. They seek to justify themselves by the philosophies and teachings of men, founded on the principles of secular humanism, so prevalent in the “politically correct” thinking of today.
The “wisdom of the world” seeks to counterfeit the wisdom of God. Because we all have different temperaments, Satan is very clever in the way he designs his enticements to fit every personality type. One popular counterfeit is the notion that we should have a good time on earth, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Nephi:28:7) The thinking of such people is something like this, “Since there is no evidence that God exists, and this life is all there is, we should have a good time while we are here, since this life is all we get.” There is no hell, no judgment, indeed no absolute right or wrong. This logic seems to be suited to attract those who have a “yellow” personality type. We should not fear death because there is no consciousness, so we should “make hay while the sun shines” (See 2 Nephi 28:7, 22). Korihor excels at this type of thinking.
Another counterfeit doctrine says, “Yes, there is a God; and, Yes, he does have rules and laws, but a little sin is much better than a lot of sin and his grace and love will cover us in a few sins as long as we don’t go overboard.” These are the people who are always searching for the edge of the cliff to know how close they can drive to it and still be safe. If turns out that we have overstepped our bounds and come too close to the edge of the cliff, then we will receive a bit of punishment, but because of God’s love, he will save us in the kingdom of heaven. God will be like a kind grandfather, who will justify us in doing what brings us pleasure (see 2 Nephi 28:8).
The problem with this counterfeit is not its reliance on God’s love and forbearance, which is certainly there. It is rather in the cold and the calculating nature of counting on such love to excuse us from purposeful wrongdoing. Such a person really thinks to take advantage of God’s nature. He is cheapening God’s grace, not to mention making a kind of mockery of His atonement.
The third approach is for Satan to suggest to us that he doesn’t exist at all, that there is no hell, no judgment, indeed no absolute right or wrong.
Pride is the central issue in all of these sins and errors. It is the mother of all the sins—giving birth to each of them. C.S. Lewis called pride the “great sin.” In Mere Christianity, he says, “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…”
Ezra Taft Benson has said, “The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time. (“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 63)
One of the most successful perversions of the truth today is the turning of things upside down. We hear the world screaming that good things, morals that have been the foundation of society for centuries, are “judgmental” and might offend others. Black is white, bad is good. It makes us shake our heads, and yet there it is on prime time. Everything today is backwards!
Satan is trying to defeat the Father’s plan of happiness by creating illusions or counterfeits of reality and happiness. They may temporarily satisfy us, but will ultimately lead us away from real spiritual nourishment.
This is exactly what Nephi has just been telling us about the last days. What we have today is a society, largely in apostasy from the gospel, that has changed the ordinances, broken the covenants and lost many of the plain and precious parts of the story itself. We live in a culture that regards its spiritual stories as doubtful, and that has eliminated the ordinances and rituals based on those stories. The practicing of our religion, doing the ritual, is of critical importance to the nourishment of our souls. Attendance at meetings, performing and partaking of the ordinances, attending the temple, and the other physical acts of worship are vital. The ordinances are designed to make us more like our Savior so that we can love and serve others as He does—the ultimate end of true religion. They are the outward expressions of our inward convictions and needs. Without the outward acts, our inward spiritual life will eventually wither. It is in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ that our power to become is generated. The counterfeit measures of Satan always cause us to turn inward, and satisfy our carnal desires. They are isolating. The ordinances of God are never inward-looking. No ordinance can be performed alone— they can only be done with another person, and in relationship to a higher power.
In our day we live in a society with many busy people of different backgrounds moving frequently. Most don’t live in a community where they have extended family at hand. We don’t have the time or space to tell our stories to each other. The “value” system taught now is a blend of popular culture, humanism, and relativism. Our society today calls for Respect and Tolerance, according to the “politically correct” definitions of these noble principles, as the ultimate virtues, which must be upheld at all times and written with capital letters. All the “old morals virtues” are written in lower case letters. However, when faith-based communities seek to be “tolerated” and “respected,” we see a different story.
The mind-numbing properties of drugs, alcohol, pornography, illicit sex, or any other temporary diversionary thrill that we find in life can be a counterfeit remedy. We may use them to try to fill the emptiness, guilt, or even the existential absurdity that fills too many hearts. The role of the gospel is to free us from these crutches.
But alas! We are forgetting the “Red” personality types. “At that day he shall rage in the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 28:20). One of Satan’s methods in these last days is to stir people up to anger and hostility against that which is good. This is, again, a counterfeit of righteous anger or indignation at evil. It is part of the big lie — calling good an evil and inducing people to be angry with that which is good.
What about the “Whites” — those that hate contention. Another approach is therefore to pacify people, “lull them away in carnal security,” and tell them that all is well. (See 2 Nephi 28:21) They need not work with all their heart, might, mind and strength. This is a counterfeit sense of well-being that cheats our souls and leads us gently in Satan’s direction. This pacification is like the frog in the pot of cool water which is ever so gradually heated up, so that he is soon “cooked” without even realizing it. If the water would have been that hot initially, he would have jumped out immediately. The gradual way is spiritually lethal. I love the quote by C.S. Lewis that says, “The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
Elder David A. Bednar spoke of how to repel Satan’s methods in his October 2019 General Conference Address, “Watchful Unto Prayer Continually.” He describe the impact that Elder Boyd K. Packer’s 1976 talk entitled “Spiritual Crocodiles” had on him and his wife. He was “impressed with the content of this message about avoiding sin and the masterful way he used the ordinary behavior of animals to teach an important spiritual lesson.” He said that he and his wife have also had opportunities while on assignments in Africa to observe and learn lessons from the behavior of African wildlife. As they watched two cheetahs hunting their prey, they related what they observed to the daily living of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says,
Lesson #1 “Beware of Evil’s Beguiling Disguises.”
To me, cheetahs are sleek, alluring, and captivating creatures. A cheetah’s yellowish-tan to greyish-white coat with black spots acts as a beautiful disguise that makes these animals almost invisible as they stalk their prey in the African grasslands. In a similar way, spiritually dangerous ideas and actions frequently can appear to be attractive, desirable, or pleasurable. Thus, in our contemporary world, each of us needs to be aware of beguiling bad that pretends to be good.
Isaiah 5:20 warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
I love the idea of being aware of “beguiling bad.” Wise advice! Elder Bednar continues:
Lesson #2—Stay Awake and Be Alert
For a topi, a brief moment of carelessness or inattentiveness could invite a swift attack from a cheetah. Likewise, spiritual complacency and casualness make us vulnerable to the advances of the adversary. Spiritual thoughtlessness invites great danger into our lives.
Nephi described how in the latter days Satan would attempt to pacify and lull the children of God into a false sense of “carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Nephi 28:21).
Constant vigilance is required to counteract complacency and casualness. To be vigilant is the state or action of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. And keeping watch denotes the act of staying awake to guard and protect. Spiritually speaking, we need to stay awake and be alert to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the signals that come from the Lord’s watchmen on the towers.
Focusing our lives in and on the Savior and His gospel enables us to overcome the tendency of the natural man to be spiritually snoozy and lazy. As we are blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear, the Holy Ghost can increase our capacity to look and listen when we may not typically think we need to look or listen or when we may not think anything can be seen or heard.
Understanding the intent of an enemy is vital to effective preparation for possible attacks.
There is so much information packed into this quote! First of all, how does Satan cause us to be “snoozy”? Are we so involved in “the thick of thin things” that we become numbed to the really important things around us? A friend of mine has goats. She says they think that life is a party, and everyone is a friend. They are completely trusting, complacent, and defenseless. They are “snoozy.” They live in goat nirvana. However, this carelessness can result in an attack! Little things, seemingly harmless, can build up and become BIG things before we are aware. Beware of your feeling that something is not right – even if it seems odd. The odder the impression seems, the more we should beware. We all have the Light of Christ spinning in our hearts and pricking us to action. We might want a pet lion cub, but anything with teeth can bite. The natural man can become spiritually snoozy. We need to be on vigilant guard!
Who are our watchmen? The answer seems obvious. They give us counsel regularly at General Conference. Elder Bednar goes on:
Lesson #3—Understand the Intent of the Enemy
A cheetah is a predator that naturally preys on other animals. All day, every day, a cheetah is a predator. Satan “is the enemy of righteousness and of those who seek to do the will of God.” All day, every day, his only intent and sole purpose are to make the sons and daughters of God “miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
The Father’s plan of happiness is designed to provide direction for His children, to help them experience enduring joy, and to bring them safely home to Him with resurrected, exalted bodies. The devil labors to make the sons and daughters of God confused and unhappy and to hinder their eternal progression. The adversary works relentlessly to attack the elements of the Father’s plan he hates the most.
Satan does not have a body, and his eternal progress has been halted. Just as water flowing in a riverbed is stopped by a dam, so the adversary’s eternal progress is thwarted because he does not have a physical body. Because of his rebellion, Lucifer has denied himself all of the mortal blessings and experiences made possible through a tabernacle of flesh and bones. One of the potent scriptural meanings of the word damned is illustrated in his inability to continue progressing and becoming like our Heavenly Father.
Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. President Russell M. Nelson has taught that spiritual safety ultimately lies in “‘never taking the first enticing step toward going where you should not go and doing what you should not do.’ … As human beings we all have [physical] appetites necessary for our survival. ‘These appetites are absolutely essential for the perpetuation of life. So, what does the adversary do? … He attacks us through our appetites.’”
I am so grateful that Moroni, who saw our day, has given us a book such as the Book of Mormon that teaches us “with such muscle the tactics and smooth talk of Satan as he woos a covenant people from the Lord,” as the Proctors put it in their recent podcast.
Why does God reveal truth to us “line upon line, precept upon precept?”
In a recent Come Follow Me post, Mary Stallings said, “I want A to Z, but the Lord gives me A to B. I was intrigued by this statement, because so many times I have wondered the same thing. Why does the Lord just give us the next step to take when we petition him for answers, instead of giving them to us all at once?
President Dallin H. Oaks commented on this question:
A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances where they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances where the choices are trivial or where either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it, and upon our best judgment if we do not.
The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. But the kind of experiential learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miracle of conversion doesn’t happen all at once. We can experience enlightenment in many different ways. Elder David A. Bednar illustrates this well:
A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.
The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently “distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare and is evident in the experiences of Nephi.
(David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation, April Conference, 2011, emphasis mine.)
Nephi tried several different approaches before successfully obtaining the plates of brass from Laban (see 1 Nephi 3–4). Ultimately, he was led by the Spirit to Jerusalem, “not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). Why does the Lord require us to go “blind” so often? What benefits do we gain from trying to figure things out for ourselves?
Nephi is directed to create another record – the small plates, but says concerning them, “Th Lord commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not” (1 Nephi 9:5). Again, he is doing something, but he does not yet know the purpose for which he is doing it. Have you ever gone through something, and not known the purpose for which your Heavenly Father is having you go through it? We can learn much from Nephi. The Lord gives us the steps from A to B, but not to Z.
On another occasion, Nephi is asked to build a boat., but is at first told nothing about how to build it. He is told where to find the ore out of which to molten the tools to build the ship. He did not learn how to build a ship of curious workmanship all at one time, but rather, was shown by the Lord “from time to time after what manner [he] should work the timbers of the ship” (1 Nephi 18:1).
From “time to time” – an interesting concept to ponder. In your personal life, has revelation from heaven come most often from A to Z, or from A to B, and from “time to time” B to C? What do you think of God’s teaching method of not giving us all the details of how to achieve our desired ends? What virtues can be developed in us after we recognize and accept that this is how the Lord deals with his children?
Repeating what Elder Bednar has stated: “Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation.”
President Joseph F. Smith explained how this pattern of revelation occurred in his life:
As a boy … I would frequently … ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line …, until He made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did He have to speak with the trump of an archangel.
By the whisperings of the still small voice of the spirit of the living God, He gave to me the testimony I possess. And by this principle and power He will give to all the children of men a knowledge of the truth that will stay with them, and it will make them to know the truth, as God knows it, and to do the will of the Father as Christ does it. And no amount of marvelous manifestations will ever accomplish this.
Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members … who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God” (in Conference Report, April 1900, 40-41).
Why does the Lord teach in such a manner? Consider our society today. We live in a culture of “immediacy.” We live in a time of fast foods, speed dating, ad nauseum. We can search the Internet and get information on any subject within seconds. We can get cash on demand at any ATM. Evidently, the Lord does not choose to work this way with his children. He never has, and he never will. Like the five wise virgins who were prepared with spiritual oil gathered drop by drop, faith, spirituality, and testimony take time to develop. They take patience – combined with tenacity and diligence. In today’s world, how many people have the grit and patience to do that?
We most often want A to Z answers, but we receive only A to B. The Lord wants to s t r e t c h us and make us into a person who is like Him. Consider Elder Bednar’s final words:
In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps. And we can speak with the assurance that God will inspire our utterances. This is in part the meaning of the scripture that declares, “Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45).
As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7; 32:28), and direct and protect you and your family.
This last year since we returned from our mission, I was inspired to embark on a project for which I was not prepared. I only knew it was what the Lord wanted me to do. It was very difficult, and I had no idea why the Lord chose ME as his instrument. However, all along the way, I was given countless “tender mercies,” and was blessed with amazing “coincidences,” that led me step by step along the way, “not knowing beforehand what I should do.” The project is still a work in progress, but at this point, there is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord is guiding me. It is a grand adventure, but my testimony of God’s love and awareness of “every creature of his creating” has increased exponentially!