Getting Answers to Gospel Questions

As summarized in the seminary manual, responding to the Lord’s question—“What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”—the brother of Jared prepared sixteen stones and humbly asked the Lord to touch them “that they may shine forth in darkness”. Because the brother of Jared had great faith, he saw the Savior’s finger touch the stones. The Lord then showed Himself to the brother of Jared and revealed many things.

And he showed himself to the brother of Jared in a way never before seen. 

Elder Holland explains, 

Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, ‘Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.’ As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. … Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

Redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future—the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. …Faith is to agree unconditionally—and in advance—to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future. The brother of Jared’s faith was complete.

Faith is a real power, not seen with temporal eyes, and we can find the answers we are looking for.

There is a path to developing that kind of faith, the faith that parts veils and sees the Lord. It requires repentance.

What is repentance? Looking to God and desiring to be like him, with a willingness to course correct as needed. It’s just that simple. It’s not scary, and we should be in a constant state of repentance. It is learning and choosing to be better. And as we repent, our faith grows. Faith, to agree unconditionally—and in advance—to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

This is how we prepare ourselves to find answers. We look deeper and are more open to revelation. We agree to accept what the Lord wants to teach us, and are prepared to live by it.

When Joseph Smith read in the first chapter of James that God giveth liberally, he was willing to experiment upon those words and prepared to receive an answer and live by that answer. He describes,

Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

In seeking the Lord through prayer even in the face of unrelenting darkness, and being willing to accept the answer, he proved his worthiness and faith and received the answers to his questions as needed to fulfill the Lord’s purposes.

We, in our rocky climb to perfect faith, might not find the answers we are looking for right away.

Elder Hartman Rector Jr in conference once explained,

President Brigham Young said it is a hundred times easier to repent here on the earth than it is in the spirit world. By the same token, if we go there in the right condition, it is a hundred times easier to learn in the spirit world than it is here in this life. So we should do what we can do best where we are. Now is the best time to repent; then will be the best time to learn.

We need to be repenting, turning our hearts to God. As we seek answers to our questions and are willing to accept the answers we receive, we are actively repenting and preparing ourselves for the time when we will find those answers. We must be prepared to receive further light and knowledge. Seeking for answers prepares us to find them, even if we must wait.

And as Elder Rector said, it might not come in this life. We need not worry. We can be okay with saying “I don’t know, I haven’t received an answer yet. For this purpose I continue to talk to God.” It is in pure, honest, and willing seeking that we become more like our Father in Heaven, and are prepared to receive the further light and knowledge we seek.

It is true that in this life we are met with things that cause us to stop and wonder. We consider the depth of the gospel. Perhaps there are even things which cause us to pause on the path as Elder Ballard put it. He said,

Life can be like hikers ascending a steep and arduous trail. It is a natural and normal thing to occasionally pause on the path to catch our breath, to recalculate our bearings, and to reconsider our pace. Not everyone needs to pause on the path, but there is nothing wrong with doing so when your circumstances require. In fact, it can be a positive thing for those who take full advantage of the opportunity to refresh themselves with the living water of the gospel of Christ. The danger comes when someone chooses to wander away from the path that leads to the tree of life. Sometimes we can learn, study, and know, and sometimes we have to believe, trust, and hope.

Elder Maxwell wrote,

When one decides whether or not to deal with hard doctrines, the tendency is to put them off or to be put off by them. Not only are they in some respects puzzling, but they may even offend our mortal pride. Just as there are some good deeds we do gladly and quickly while others are put off time and time again, so it is with certain gospel truths: we accept some with joy and alacrity, but others we keep at arm’s length. The hardness is usually not in their complexity, but in the deep demands these doctrines make of us. They are actually harder to accept than to understand, for there is a breathtaking simplicity about them.

I think of the Savior, giving his Sermon on the Mount, and I imagine being there with the disciples as they learned of Christ’s purest doctrines. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” So simple, and yet it is this loving, even of our enemies, which most of us so easily stumble over. We search for safety more than we find forgiveness. We seek revenge more than we seek the salvation of our perceived enemies. We give excuses and justify away Christ’s sanctifying words. But we, as divine beings, were never meant to be justified only. As the Prophet Joshua said, we are to sanctify ourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among us.

As Christ’s disciples, we seek answers, but are we truly willing to accept the answers we seek? Do we agree unconditionally—and in advance—to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future? If not, then we must start with our willingness before we try to find answers. We must be prepared to live by the truths we will be given.

When we attend our meetings, read our scriptures, say our daily prayers, hold family home evenings, regularly attend the temple, and otherwise follow the counsels of the prophets, we are softening our hearts and preparing ourselves to accept and live the gospel. We must be acquainted with the things of the spirit and recognize that which is good fruit.

Joseph Smith explained,

This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. They are given to me by the revelations of Jesus Christ; and I know that when I tell you these words of eternal life as they are given to me, you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life. I know it is good; and when I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more.

We can recognize good fruit because it tastes good. It feels right. It brings peace and joy. It calms storms. And it inspires godliness. We need to eat of the good fruit often, so that we can taste it even when it might be hidden or surrounded by bitter fruit. We do this by attending our meetings, reading our scriptures, praying often, serving others, visiting the temple, and following the prophet. And it is in this constant and steady discipleship that we prepare ourselves to receive of the mysteries of heaven, and in doing so we often find the very answers we seek.

Father in Heaven loves you. He rejoices when you find peace and joy, and when you seek for answers to gospel questions, that you might more fully grow in your divine stature. And not Him only, but our Savior desires the same. The Holy Ghost desires the same. Your ancestors and loved ones on the other side of the veil desire the same.

Joseph F Smith, as quoted by Elder Scott, once said,

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. … We are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors … who have preceded us into the spirit world. We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break. … If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, … how much more certain it is … to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond … can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. … We live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; … their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves.

You are not alone in your journey. You have the love of Father, of Christ, of family on both sides of the veil, and of your fellow saints who have covenanted to bear your burdens, to mourn with you, and to comfort you with their testimonies. You may not always find answers to the questions you have. It is not always the right time or place for certain truths to be revealed. As Elder Holland counselled,

In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of the boy with palsy’s affliction or his parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.

Read your scriptures. Pray. Go to the temple. Do genealogy work. Come to church. Hold family councils. Repent. Seek for light and knowledge. Be patient. Practice tasting the good fruit and be willing to partake of all the Lord wants to give you. Let the gospel be simple and simply follow it. I know that just as the brother of Jared pushed through the veil and saw the Lord, your answers will come.

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