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Editor’s Note: The following comes from a series taken from Ted Gibbons’ book, “This Life is a Test.” To read the previous installment, CLICK HERE.
“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban” (1 Nephi 4:6). The right of the Teacher to change the rules by which we participate in the Test is nowhere better demonstrated than in this meeting of Nephi and Laban.
Dozens of times in the Owner’s Manual the Teacher prohibited this very thing. Beginning in Genesis 9:6, the Instructor established the death penalty for those who murder. He included this prohibition as one of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:13). He reaffirmed it for the people of the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 26:32; Alma 1:18; Alma 34:12), and for our own day (D&C 42:18, 79). But to Nephi, through one of His aides, He said, “Kill Laban.”
The Teacher said, “I . . . command and revoke, as it seemeth me good” (D&C 56:4). He may do so by his own voice or appearance, but most of the changes are conveyed by His aides. Parents, The Holy Spirit, angels, the Prophet, other General Authorities, area presidencies, Area Authority Seventies, stake presidents, bishops, quorum leaders, and even home teachers and visiting teachers are empowered at times by the Teacher to initiate or encourage changes in procedure during the Test.
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.
“God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; at another time he said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted–by revelations adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255).
Lehi, a prosperous Jerusalem merchant, was commanded by the Lord to leave everything behind except his family and camping equipment and get out of town. This was not a general directive. It came by revelation to him and to him alone. (1 Nephi 2:1, 2). He obeyed and took his family into the desert and down to the Red Sea. Three days journey further they made a camp and waited. Here, near the River of Laman, the Teacher sent new instructions: “Lehi, send your boys back to Jerusalem for the Brass Plates” (1 Nephi 3:2-4). Laman and Lemuel complained, saying “it is a hard thing.”
It was a “hard thing.” They were approximately one hundred and eighty miles from Jerusalem. Why didn’t the Teacher give this directive before they left and save a significant amount of travel? What were His reasons for requiring the boys to traverse that distance two more times (once in each direction) for a copy of the scriptures?
During this trip, Laman and Lemuel received instructions from an angel that Nephi was to be their ruler, and Nephi received his own new instructions from the Holy Spirit. He was to kill Laban. He did so reluctantly, obtained the plates, and the four sons returned to the camp of their father in the wilderness.
Lehi searched through the plates his sons had brought to him, then received more instructions. This time Nephi and the others were to “again return to the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 5:2). By the time they returned from this trip, they had traveled over seven hundred miles to and from the place where they lived to begin with.
The Owner’s Manual abounds in such situations. Nephi was commanded to build a ship (1 Nephi 17:8). He was commanded to depart from his brethren and begin his own colony in a new location in the Promised Land (2 Nephi 5:5). King Mosiah was warned to leave the colony established by Nephi (Omni 1:12). Abinadi was directed to take a message to King Noah and his wicked priests (Mosiah 11:20), and then to deliver a follow-up message (Mosiah 12:1).
Alma the Elder was commanded to organize a church and baptize the believers (Mosiah 18), and to depart from Helam into the wilderness in a search for Zarahemla. (Mosiah 24). He also sought for and received directions about the disposition of the apostates from the Church (Mosiah 26).
Alma the Younger was commanded by an angel to stop trying to destroy the Church. (Mosiah 27:11-16). Later, having been cast out of Ammonihah (Alma 8:13), Alma was commanded to return again by the same angel (Alma 8:15-16). Amulek was directed by an angel to receive and feed Alma (Alma 8:20).
Mormon was commanded to abridge the Large Plates of Nephi (Mormon 5:9), and then to include with the abridgement the Small Plates as well (Words of Mormon 1:3-7). He was forbidden to preach to the wicked Nephites (Mormon 1:16-17).
In our own dispensation the Lord directed Joseph to translate and publish new volumes of scripture, to organize the true Church, to move with his people from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, to practice polygamy, and to build temples. In 1890, President Woodruff received and relayed instructions putting an end to the practice of plural marriage by the Church. (see Official Declaration–1, D&C, pp. 291-293). In 1978, the First Presidency communicated new instructions “extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church” (Official Declaration 2).
The reality of continuing instruction from the Teacher is so basic to the Test that a recital of more examples from the Owner’s Manual would probably be unproductive. Some day when you find yourself with uncluttered blocks of time, get a new copy of the Book of Mormon and a red pencil. Begin reading and marking every example of communication between the Teacher and the Testing Center you discover. I suspect you will be astonished. But there are other, non-scriptural examples that are worth a careful look, because they teach great lessons about our own involvement with the Teacher’s aides.
Teacher’s aides can relay instructions to an individual, a group, or to the entire Testing Center. Some years ago one of my daughters was determined to take a trip with some friends. Her mother and I were deeply concerned. The arrangements were less than acceptable, and we both felt a great concern about her and her safety.
We shared our feelings and talked with her until it was clear that saying any more would only make things worse. I went to my room to have a talk with the Instructor. As I conversed with Him, the phone rang. I answered and found myself talking to my home teacher. He was one of the Teacher’s aides, and the Spirit had moved him to call me to ask what was wrong. “Put on your tie and get over here,” I said. “You’ve just been called on a mission.”
He came, and he and my seventeen-year-old daughter went for a walk. When they returned an hour later, she had decided not to go on the trip. The car accident that occurred as her friends made the trip without her was a great lesson to her, and fortunately not fatal to any of them. She learned that parents and home teachers can receive and relay instructions from the Teacher.
My great-grandfather Jonathan Heaton had a powerful experience with the Teacher in the protection of his family. His daughter Mercy had gone to a dance where a stranger had taken an interest in her. They had spent much of the evening together. After the dance they walked a while and then he took her home.
Early the next morning, great-grandfather Heaton completed his chores and left for the ranch, about four miles distant. Three times his journey was interrupted by brilliant light in front of the car that seemed to resist his moving forward. As he sat there after the third manifestation, baffled and perplexed, he had a vision of his daughter Mercy on a high pinnacle or ledge, with a man reaching his arms up to her. A voice spoke to him saying, “Return home, Jonathan. You are needed. Go back, make the gospel live for your children.”
He turned around and proceeded back to town. As he reached his big, white house, he stopped the car and sat there, pondering. Suddenly the man he had seen in his vision came from the front door and walked quickly down the path and out the front gate.
The young man (the same who had been at the dance the night before) had come to see Mercy. Great-grandma had refused him permission. He started toward the stairway and she tried to stop him. He then grabbed her arm in an angry, menacing manner, as though he would force his way past her. At that moment, Great-Grandpa Heaton drove into the yard. The youth heard the car and turned. Then he ran out the door (See Esther’s Children, by Gwen Heaton Sherratt and Hannah Heaton Roundy, published by the William Heaton Family Organization, 1971, p. 64).
A relative recorded this experience;
“In the spring of 1914 [I was] freighting from Alton to Marysvale where we took the wool to be shipped. I took my oldest boy, Reid, with me. He was six years old in April . . . Bishop Robinson of Kanab passed me in a buggy about 5 miles from home. As we passed, he said, `Ira, take that boy back, he will get killed.’ I did not heed the warning as he had gone with me the year before along with twelve other boys and their fathers. They had such fun.
“Reid was with me all the time and was a great help and a good companion. We rode all the way to Marysvale on the high load of the wagon. When the wool was shipped, we loaded up some flour that covered the bottom of the double wagon box and started for home.
“About six miles north of Panguitch . . . there was a little down grade. I had four horses, the lines in one hand, the brake in the other. I was sitting in the spring seat. Reid was sitting inside the box at my feet, his feet on the dashboard. He had been carving animals with my knife . . . He must have gone to sleep completely relaxed, for when the horses started to trot, the jolt of a wheel hitting a rock threw him over the front end of the box, his head hit the ground, breaking his neck; and the wheel ran over one of his legs and an arm. Dr. Clark of Panguitch was called, but Reid must have died almost immediately.
“This was a great shock to me because of the warning of Bishop Robinson, and I felt that if I’d left him home he would have lived. . . .
“He was such a nice, sweet boy, and I cannot help but wonder if I will be held responsible, after being warned” (Esther’s Children, p. 100).
Again we emphasize: the Teacher’s aides can relay instructions at any time, and on any subject. It behooves us to be so familiar with the voice and manner of the Teacher that when He speaks or someone speaks for Him, we recognize His influence and style.
Matthew Cowley reported this occurrence:
“I had a particular assignment or instruction from President George Albert Smith when I was called [as a General Authority]. He called me into his office one day and took hold of my hand, and while he was holding my hand and looking at me he said, `I want to say something to you, Brother Cowley.’ I said, `Well, I’m willing to listen.’ `This is just a particular suggestion to you. Not to all the brethren, but to you.’ He said, `Never write a sermon. Never write down what you are going to say.’ I said, `What on earth will I do?’ He said, `You tell the people what the Lord wants you to tell them while you are standing on your feet.’ I said, `That certainly is putting some responsibility on the Lord’” (Matthew Cowley, “Miracles,” Brigham Young University, February 18, 1953, p. 2).
A most dramatic modern illustration of new instructions coming from a Teacher’s aide occurred on Sunday, February 22, 1987, when Ezra Taft Benson gave a sermon entitled “To the Mothers in Zion.” There were in this speech three items of instruction that received a great deal of attention and comment. Similar messages had come in the past, but now these items received a new emphasis.
President Benson said:
“Young mothers and fathers, with all my heart I counsel you not to postpone having your children, being co-creators with our Father in Heaven.
“Do not use the reasoning of the world, such as `we’ll wait until we can better afford having children, until we are more secure, until John has completed his education, until he has a better paying job, until we have a larger home, until we’ve obtained a few of the material conveniences,’ and on and on.
“This is the reasoning of the world and is not pleasing in the sight of God. Mothers who enjoy good health, have your children and have them early. And husbands, always be considerate of your wives in the bearing of children” (p. 2).
He also said:
“Do not curtail the number of your children for personal or selfish reasons. Material possessions, social convenience, and so-called professional advantages are nothing compared to a righteous posterity. In the eternal perspective, children–not possessions, not position–are our greatest jewels.
“Brigham Young emphasized: `There are multitudes of pure and holy spirits waiting to take tabernacles, now what is our duty?–To prepare tabernacles for them; to take a course that will not tend to drive those spirits into the families of the wicked. . . . It is the duty of every righteous man and woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can’” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197) (pp. 2-3).
President Kimball relayed new instructions to the youth in the Center when he said, “Any dating or pairing off in social activities should be postponed until at least the age of 16 or older” (Ensign, February 1975, p. 4).
Following both of these prophetic messages there were saints who did not understand, and in some cases did not therefore agree with the counsel. The Teacher recognized that such situations would occur, and He taught His Church on the day it was organized that we should respond to the words of the living prophet “in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:5). Responding affirmatively without understanding requires substantial patience and faith.
It behooves us to so live that we can sense the spirituality that accompanies any message from the Teacher, so that “he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified together” (D&C 50:22). In addition, we must realize that the Lord will always work through his priesthood organization. We only serve as aides to those for whom the Teacher has given us stewardship.
The warnings and new instructions that come to us individually and as a people, from whichever of the Teacher’s aides they may come, are always given for the benefit of the faithful in the Testing Center. They should be attended to with great earnestness, for the Lord said of the prophet, “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth” (D&C 21:5); and of the Holy Spirit, “Whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture . . . shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” And He said of his aides, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:37).
The preceding is Rule # 9 of Ted Gibbons’ series on how to pass the Test of Life. It comes from his book, ‘This Life is a Test.’ If you would like to get your own e-copy of the entire book, send $5.00 to the PayPal account of firstname.lastname@example.org. Please choose the PayPal option “Friends and Family.” We will email you an e-copy of the book.