One of the greatest aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is this idea that every individual is entitled to personal revelation. It is a bold claim and one that has profound implications on the way the members of the Church views not only the religion itself, but their own personal role within that religious ecosystem.
This notion of bottom up revelatory doctrine in how we receive truth in our gospel is quite amazing when you think about it. Though the prophet has been given the keys and authority to receive revelation for and on behalf of the church, we still have the right to pray and ask for confirmation of those truths and in fact we are encourage to do so.
No one has ever stated that members within the church cannot ask questions. It is usually after asking such questions and finding the answers to them that often times provides the greatest growth in our testimonies. No one is saying that the prophet or the brethren are perfect. Clearly they’re not. There are numerous occasions where prominent members have disagreed with members of the Twelve or even the prophet himself. I don’t think there is a person alive who hasn’t even questioned God Himself at times.
Life is hard, challenging and can very well be downright confusing at times. When we find ourselves in the mist of hardships whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual in nature it is human nature to start to ask questions that perplexes us at the time. These questions are a necessary part of the learning process and as such should not be smothered or extinguished by forces within any organizations.
It is in such moments that we need to look back no further than a time where we misjudged a situation or an individual. At a time where we clearly made a poor decision because we didn’t have all of the facts in front of us. Times where we took a path that in hindsight would have been so easily avoided had we but listened to advice given to us by those around us. There are times where we are too emotionally invested to see a particular situation clearly. These are the times where we realize that poor decisions can be made when the full picture is not seen.
Much of our life here on Earth is a series of events where we have to make decisions without the perfect viewpoint of having the entire picture in front of us. We are given bits and pieces here and there and have to do the best we can with what we have. This includes having prophets and apostles to help guide us in returning back to our Heavenly Father. Though they don’t know every answer to every question we could possibly ask, they do know both by virtue of their callings and through their own life experiences how we can return to our Heavenly Father and ultimately, isn’t this the only thing that matters?
An Attitude of Learning and Listening
Attitude shapes the framework by which we interpret the world around us. When we ultimately do have questions, how do we approach our Heavenly Father with them? When we approach our bishops or other church leaders, do we have a genuine attitude of wanting to learn or to prove them wrong? So often times as Stephen R. Covey so eloquently states it:
Often times we listen with an intent to reply. To show where the holes in an individual’s arguments may or may not be. We listen with an attitude to prove ourselves or our preconceived worldview right as opposed to listening to what is right. Even many of you who are reading this very blog post who agree with my underlying premise will think to themselves “this guys is spot on” without critically thinking about whether I am. While those who disagree are breaking down the various arguments and argument structures to find where they can prove to me wrong as opposed to critically evaluating what parts of the post they can learn from.
It’s ok to have questions and to kneel before God in prayer and say “this doesn’t make sense to me.” However, if we genuinely want an answer, we need to have an attitude of humility as we approach Him in prayer and have a willingness to accept the answer on His timetable. Just as we wouldn’t approach a professor or teacher with a pompous attitude trying to embarrass or harass them in their subject, we ought not to approach God or God’s anointed with the same mindset.
Revelation both personal and to the church as a whole, comes on God’s timetable, not ours. We don’t approach the God of the Universe with our minuet viewpoint of time and the world and demand how changes ought to be brought about or challenges removed. We approach Him with the reverence that He deserves and with the premise that He truly loves us, wants what is best for us and will do everything in His power to help us find answers to our questions and problems when the time is right. If we have problems with this last premise, perhaps our issues are much deeper than simply facing a physical trial or simply having a doctrinal disagreement.
As Stephen Robinson wrote concerning our testimony of Christ, we not only need to believe in Him, we need to believe Him. We need to believe that when He says everything will work out in the end, we need to believe that it will. When He promises us that we will return to live with Him someday with our families, as we follow Him and the apostles and prophets, we need to believe that that will indeed be the case.