Personal Online Journal

Thursday, January 06, 2011

How can I question without losing the Spirit?

This is a question that Elder Robert Hales asks in "Gifts of the Spirit", Ensign, Feb. 2002, page 12 (MP3). Underlining added.

How can I question without losing the Spirit? This is a question often asked of me by young people. All of us have questions at times in our lives on policies, procedures, or even principles. The best way to find the answers we seek is to search out the solution for ourselves.
How do we go about it?
First and foremost, it is our attitude, or how we ask the question, that is very, very important. If it is a demand, one loses the opportunity for an answer.
Second, if we have strong feelings about the way something should be and are unwilling to listen, we may lose the opportunity to get an answer.
One only has to remember when Martin Harris wanted to take home pages of the Book of Mormon translation to show to others. Joseph Smith prayed to the Lord a number of times to finally be allowed to let the man do it. The Lord knew that the pages would be lost. But sometimes we want something so much and keep praying about it that the Lord lets us do it for our learning experience.
Sometimes we are drawn into seeking and giving answers that bring recognition or notoriety to “our” thinking and to “our” opinion. Don’t look for signs or answers that build you up. Humility and submissiveness to God will always be fundamental in receiving direction from Him.
Others operate in a spirit of gratitude to the Lord for the gospel and concentrate on correcting their own imperfections. We can develop the ability to discern what spirit is influencing others and ourselves. We should seek and pray for this gift lest we be deceived.
The gift of discernment is like the rod of iron; it will keep us on the path toward the tree of life, which means eternal life.
Elder Hales also gives some words of caution. It seems this talk was given in August 1993.  He is speaking from his direct experience with leading church councils starting as an assistant to the quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1975, First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976, presiding bishop in 1985.  He was then called as an apostle in 1994. (See Wikipedia) (Underling added)
May I take a moment to talk of some cautions taught me by experiences that I have observed regarding the gifts of the Spirit.
Too often people feel that answers to their prayers and their pleading for guidance and direction will be given in dramatic manifestations or through a direct voice giving specific directions from a heavenly host. My personal experience and my observation of the Brethren as they guide and direct the Church and solve problems has taught me that the answers come oftentimes over an extended period of time with almost a natural solution whereby people take actions on the feelings of their hearts—which bring them peace and comfort—rather than through dramatic revelation.
Let me give you an example of how I learned this lesson. As a regional representative, I was traveling with President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) to a stake conference for the selection of a new stake president. We had been driving in a car for more than an hour discussing the Church and priesthood administration. For some reason, I asked a question that, at the moment I asked it, I realized was inappropriate.
The question I asked President Romney was “What is the most spiritual experience you have had as an Apostle of the Lord?” There was a pause. It seemed like an eternity. Then he said, “I believe what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught, that if we would keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves, many more spiritual experiences could be shared with us.”
It seemed like there was a long period of silence after that remark, and then he said to me, “I owe you a better answer.” Then he gave me great counsel. He said the greatest spiritual experiences of his life had been when he had been on assignment from the President of the Church or the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, as we were that day. He said: “We will interview 25 or 30 priesthood brethren, and there will be more than one who will be qualified to be the stake president. But after we have done all we can do, we will get on our knees and pray to our Heavenly Father. We will tell Him of our feelings of who the new stake president ought to be and the reasons why. We will tell Him of the needs of the stake at this time. Then He will give us a confirmation.”
It was interesting that he said “us,” because it was true on that occasion that as we knelt and prayed, we both were able to receive a confirmation.
This is one of the best examples that I have had of what the gifts of the Spirit are and how they are manifest in our life’s work. Apply the principles taught by President Romney to understand that you can have discernment and confirmation of the concerns that confront you, such as choosing a companion or choosing a career that is best for you.
Isn’t it interesting that President Romney was sent to interview 25 or 30 men to choose one stake president rather than being told directly who it should be before his arrival? This is what the Lord means when He tells us to study it out in our own minds. Too often we want to be given answers to questions and problems that, if they were given in the manner we ask for them, would take away our agency and the blessings that come from reaching out to the Lord for answers and direction.
Some think it would be nice to have “spiritual fortune cookies” we could open to find the answers to life’s challenges. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a labeled jar we could reach into for our answers? But that is not the way it is meant to be.
I would like to express my love for my companion. I would not be what I am without her. I love her dearly. She has gifts of the Spirit. We study the scriptures together, and many of the concepts I teach have come because we have had companion study and prayer. That is why I am who I am, and I must acknowledge that.

1 comment:

Papa D said...

Wonderful post, Rich.

My only addition is a sincere attempt to answer the question asked in the title:

"By accepting our humanity and recognizing the need to question in order to learn and grow and progress - but not necessarily the need to doubt."

If you want to know what I mean by "doubt", go to my blog and look at the posts linked under "doubt" and "certainty".