Personal Online Journal

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Inexhaustible Gospel - behaving and knowing are inseparably linked

I just listened to "The Inexhaustible Gospel" a talk given by Neal A. Maxwell as a BYU devotional 18 Aug 1992 (text, media). It has been sitting on my iPod for months now. I woke up in the middle of the night so I decided to take a walk and listen to it.

Elder Maxwell has such a way with words. There is enough inspiration in this talk for many many blog entries. Inexhaustible.

For the last several months, I have been trying to keep in my mind what the word gospel means. In Mormon culture, gospel is sometimes loosely used to refer to the Mormon way of life, or any number of many teachings of the LDS church. It is helpful to me to remember that it means the good news from God. The central teaching of the LDS church. That Jesus is my Savior if I will have Him to be so. If I will enter into the agreement He offers. The phrase, Inexhaustible Gospel means more to me in this light. I am energized when I think about being saved.

Neal Maxwell describes how behaving and knowing play in the process of being saved.
gaining knowledge and becoming more Christlike "are two aspects of a single process" (Warner, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 4, p. 1490). This process is part of being "valiant" in our testimony of Jesus. Thus, while we are saved no faster than we gain a certain type of knowledge, it is also the case, as Richard Bushman has observed, that we will gain knowledge no faster than we are saved (Teachings, p. 217). So we have a fundamentally different understanding of knowledge and truth--behaving and knowing are inseparably linked. (emphasis added by me)
This truth that particularly interests me. My wife likes to tell the story of one night when I was falling to sleep as we prayed together. I said, "let us take in information as the air flows". I love information. I love learning all sorts of things. I often let this distract me from the weightier matters. Weightier matters sounds more interesting than it often is. The weightier matters sometimes is to change a diaper, to focus my energy to finishing a project for work. To be happy as I make lunch for my children 10 minutes before I want to leave for church. (Because I had not planned well for lunch.) As I do what I know is right in the moment I am in, I gain access to knowing. More, I become as that Savior is, step by step. I gain access to the help and joy and happiness He has.

Neal Maxwell states this principle again in relation to wisdom:
In gospel wisdom, knowing and behaving are irrevocably linked!

One basic limitation of worldly wisdom is its lack of longitudinality and of precious perspective. Worldly wisdom cannot "see afar off," and, without a spiritual memory, past mistakes are repeated; folly is resumed! Winston Churchill chose, by the way, as the motto for his last volume of World War II history these words:

"How the Great Democracies Triumphed, and so Were able to Resume the Follies Which Had so Nearly Cost Them Their Life." [Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1953), p. ix]
Maxwell further describes this kind of discipleship as orthodoxy, "Ultimate orthodoxy--and orthodoxy isn't a popular word nowadays--is expressed in the Christlike life that involves both mind and behavior." Later he continues,
How intellectually amazing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is! The gospel is truly inexhaustible! It is marvelous! It is a wonder!

Yet orthodoxy is required to keep all these truths in essential balance. In orthodoxy lies real safety and real felicity! Flowing from orthodoxy is not only correctness but happiness.
It is in the doing that I become safely and permanently saved. By persisting in doing good, I gain integrity. It becomes part of my character. If I persist in learning His law, I come to understand how inadequate I am in doing it. I call upon His name as Alma did and He saves me. I am only required to do my best. I continue to call upon Him. I work hard. I rest and study and do all things in balance and order. I continue to cry unto Him and he saves me. When I stumble, He is there for me.

Minute after minute, hour, day, month and decade, I call upon His name. I renew my promises to Him each week. He fulfills His part of our bargain. As I continue to repent, my life fills with more joy and meaning. Intellectually, physically, emotionally and in all ways, he makes my life more enriched and satisfying. Bit by bit, He and I whittle away all that is not holy. All that prevents fullness of laughing and smiling.

That is enough for now. It is getting light outside and there are other things I am to be doing. I will list below more quotes from Neal Maxwell's talk. Perhaps I will write more about them later.

Brilliance, by itself, is not wholeness, nor happiness. Knowledge, if possessed for its own sake and unapplied, leaves one's life unadorned. A Church member, for instance, might describe the Lord's doctrines but not qualify to enter the Lord's house. One could produce much brilliant commentary without being exemplary. One might be intellectually brilliant but Bohemian in behavior. One might use his knowledge to seek preeminence or dominion.
Truth includes, but is not limited to, knowledge that corresponds to reality--things as they were, things as they are, and things as they will be (Jacob 4:13; D&C 93:24). Gospel truth is "morally richer," therefore, than the world's definition of truth, as Terry Warner has written (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 4 [New York: Macmillan Co., 1992], p. 1490).
you and I should be fully qualified and certified in traditional education and its processes for yet another very good reason: bilinguality. The men and women of Christ should be truly educated and articulate as to secular knowledge but should also be educated and articulate in the things of the Spirit!
What does it mean to despise the shame of the world? (2 Nephi 9:18)
"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" (T. S. Eliot, The Rock [1934], I).
I have always had a special appreciation for my friends who, though resolutely irreligious themselves, were not scoffers. Instead, though doubtless puzzled by me and their other religious friends, they were nevertheless respectful. I admire the day-to-day decency of such men and women. Though detached from theology, their decency is commendable.
"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule." [Gandalf in J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (New York: Ballantine Books, 1965), p. 190]
He closes, "by speaking further of Jesus, our Perfect Shepherd".

1 comment:

Steph said...

Good stuff. I love that you listen to so many great talks. Love you.