[A review of the book can be found here.]
Not having all the answers is more blessed. (p. 29)
In our quest for faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a tremendous and indispensable asset. But not because it offers all the answers to every possible question. Even—perhaps especially—within the restored gospel, there have to be some opportunities for us to question and doubt. They provide the opposition against which faith can grow and strengthen. In fact, Christ has deliberately withheld some things for this express purpose.1 He told Mormon, “I will try the faith of my people.”2
Hence, the Lord supports faith but does not demand it. He lets us discover substantial internal evidences in latter-day scriptures, but withholds incontrovertible proof. He gives us eleven witnesses of the gold plates, but leaves Book of Mormon geography uncertain. By not compelling us to believe, Christ offers us the chance to be “more blessed.” He told the Nephites who had seen him that “more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me.”3
And He told his doubting Apostle Thomas, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”4
Apparently, the growth we gain from believing without seeing is so valuable that it’s worth delaying a visit from the Savior. We, too, considered it “more blessed” to practice believing in the dark. That’s why we left the sure knowledge we already had in our premortal existence.
Perhaps this is why the Lord doesn’t simply foil more attacks against the Church by revealing the answers. We know He did stop one attempt to discredit the Book of Mormon. When the first 116 translated pages were lost to Joseph Smith, the Lord pointed out that He’d had Nephi make a second version of the record 2,400 years earlier.5 He explained, “Satan thinketh to overpower your testimony . . . that the work may not come forth . . . [but] I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; . . . my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”6
Apparently, Christ doesn’t consider today’s remaining anti-Mormon ploys sufficiently powerful to stop His work. They must provide the perfect mix of confusion to develop our faith.
I’ll be the barbarian Grandma. (p.61)
Studying prophets and Saints in early Church history always makes me wonder about how future historians might piece together my own life and motivations.
What will they think of the angry letter that I wrote (but never sent)? How will they process the rants in my journal (about circumstances that resolved just hours later in ways I forgot to record)? How many hasty opinions—that I vocalized forcefully but promptly regretted—live on in the memories or journals of my acquaintances?
Might I have accidentally and incorrectly maligned someone else in scattered writing or idle comments? I know a man who suddenly resigned a managerial position under suspicious circumstances, refusing to discuss the particulars. In private conversation I later discovered he had done this nobly and unselfishly to protect innocent parties. I’ve wondered how many employee emails speculate about his misdeeds.
So much behavior is enmeshed with cultural context. Think of today’s sweet elementary school teacher who brings to the Halloween party a salad of “brains and eyeballs” (macaroni and skinned grapes). Everyone loves it. Yet wouldn’t that likely seem gruesome to a future historian outside our culture? “She imitated the mutilation of dismembered bodies.”
My great-grandchildren may (hopefully!) live in the coming millennial world without contention or violence even between lions and lambs, in which no one learns war anymore. Will they be repulsed to find out that I sometimes ate bacon, chicken, and beef all in the same day? That I let my children play with swords and toy soldiers? I imagine them asking, “Grandma, how could you?”
After encountering some troubling perspectives about the Prophet Joseph Smith, I came across two books in which hundreds of his contemporaries recounted glowing stories of his daily kindnesses and courtesies. With conviction, these men and women testified that he was upright, honorable, commendable, and charitable.7 After reading them, I too wanted to shout “Praise to the man!”
Will my own life be so full of kind and noble deeds that hundreds would defend me from skeptical historians?
I translate spiritual feelings into my own words. (p. 129)
I love what Joseph Smith said of personal revelation: “All things whatsoever God . . . has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality . . . are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies.”8
God is sending messages to me exactly the same way He did before I was born. I don’t need to learn the process. I just need to block out bodily and worldly distractions enough to remember the process. President Benson said, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.”9
I expect that applies to His voice as well.
Apparently, God bypasses my physical brain, eyes, and ears—and talks straight to the core of my spirit. Sometimes He dictates specific words to me, but more often His messages arrive in something purer than earthly language. It’s that impression or prompting we describe when we say we just knew that we should visit someone or stop doing something.
Now in mortality, when I want to describe a spiritual impression to someone, I have to put words on the feeling that came to me through spiritual channels. I essentially “translate” it from my first, native language (spirit) into my second language (English.)
But so much is lost in translation. At a loss for words, I might grasp for a trite phrase like, “from the bottom of my soul.” Such wording can be misinterpreted as spiritually shallow. Yet the shallowness lies in the translation, not the original.
That’s why it doesn’t come out right if I try to tell others about my spiritual experiences without having the Holy Ghost there to help translate. That’s also why I can’t share some personal, sacred experiences with those making doubting or cynical comments on the Internet. Unless they allow the Holy Ghost to translate my typed words back into the native language of the Spirit, they will not understand. For this reason, I believe that the Internet vastly over-represents the numbers of the faithless and underrepresents the testimonies of the faithful.
- Ether 4:4–10.
- 3 Nephi 26:11.
- 3 Nephi 12:1–2.
- John 20:29.
- D&C 10, 1 Nephi 19:1–3.
- D&C 10:33, 43.
- Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, They Knew The Prophet: Personal Accounts from Over 100 People Who Knew Joseph Smith (Covenant Communications, 1974). Available through Amazon.com in Kindle format. Some out-of-print, used copies may also be available. Also see Mark L. McConkie, Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Knew the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2003).
- Joseph Smith, Jr. “The King Follett Sermon.” This version taken from Documentary History of the Church, 6:302–317.
- Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Speeches of the Year, 1974, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 313.