Saturday, February 9, 2008

Why a Different Answer?

It is a strange set of circumstances that surrounds the question "Is the Book of Mormon true?" As missionaries, we teach the process to receiving a testimony, namely 1) Gather information (specifically to read the Book of Mormon), 2) Prepare yourself to receive the Spirit into your heart by doing all you can to keep the Lord's commandments and 3) Pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ if the things you have read and done are true and of Him. Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have done these things and received an answer from the Lord through the Spirit that the Church is true, that the Book of Mormon is of God, that Joseph Smith is His prophet and that those who have been so called in the history of the Church are also His prophets. Some have received this answer so unequivocally that they find it difficult to understand how another person could do the same things and receive a different answer. In their minds, they know it to be true. Therefore, if someone else does not know it to be true, they haven't applied themselves to finding an answer diligently enough to receive it. The reality behind the surface, I suspect, is much more complicated. There could be any number of reasons why one seeking to know the truth may not receive it, only one of which is that they are not trying hard enough. I'd like to hypothesize a few of these.

The Lord is giving an answer, but the person doesn't know how to recognize it. This is a common one. This is one thing the missionaries are to do: to help people feel and recognize the Spirit. Many people, having heard stories of miraculous conversions, are seeking a wham-bam testimony slap. In the economy of heaven, this is rare. It is important for a seeker of truth to train oneself to the soft whisperings of the Spirit, rather than expecting pyrotechnics. This is not to say divine pyrotechnics are impossible, only that they come after a person has already demonstrated patience and subtlety in listening for the Spirit.

The Gospel is hard. The Lord may refrain from giving an answer to one seeking it because they are not truly ready to receive it. Once the path of discipleship is commenced, it quickly becomes apparent that it is not a stroll through the park. Additionally, a person may also decide for themselves that the path of discipleship is too hard for them. Often they can't admit this to themselves, preferring to believe that they have found no answer or even a negative one. I know of at least one person who has commenced on the path of discipleship, only to be intimidated by the difficulty of it. For some reason, we expect that if we are doing the right thing, it should be easy or at least easier. Though it is an important starting point, the gospel requires more than that initial desire to believe. It also requires dedication. One must be prepared to give all that they have, all that they are to His kingdom. There is no room for lukewarm dedication in the battle for the allegiance of men's souls.

Along a similar note, it is possible that those who are consciously seeking an answer are subconsciously afraid of it. After all, if they know the truth, they will be expected to act on it. It will require Changing their lives in ways they may not be prepared for. They will have to learn self-control. They will have to learn to stand for what they believe in the face of opposition. It takes a lot of courage to decide to stop swimming with the river and to go against it. Some will lose friends and even family members to their decision.

Finally, it is possible that the Lord refrains giving an answer for purposes of His own. He knows the hearts and actions of all men. Who is to say that by giving His answer ten years from now rather than now, that more people will not be blessed by it? Sometimes, a seeker of knowledge may have more to learn before they embark on the path of discipleship. We just don't know. What we do know is that the Lord has promised that all those who work for Him will receive Him. Those who seek will find, but it may not be according to our plans and timetables.


  1. Nice overview, SilverRain. I agree the usual approach to prayer conversion is a little too cut and dried, and sometimes leads people to assume that anyone for whom that simple approach doesn't work is either steeped in sin or dead to the Spirit of Truth. It seems preferable to say, "Sometimes people just don't get answers," and leave it at that. God moves in a mysterious way.

  2. I have been thinking recently about this- how we can often fail to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost unless we are really "tuned in."

    Also, I have come to realize that Heavenly Father is merciful in dispensing truth to His children. With truth and knowledge comes accountability, and He only gives us more truth as we are prepared for it. I am sure that He is anxious to give us as much truth as we are prepared to receive, but we also have to trust that He knows what is best for us.

  3. Both good points. Thank you for bringing them up. I think one key to all of this is to remember that we can't judge why another person has not received an answer, but knowing some possible reasons might help us guide them to discovering the reason themselves. Missionary work is about guiding, not herding. You ought not try to shepherd a person who has not yet decided if they are one of the sheep.


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