As I said in the first post I wrote, I started this blog with the intention to write to my fellow Mormons, first and foremost, proclaiming peace to my people. For the next little while, that will be what I do. I’d like to examine Mormon thought through Mormon scripture, so my apologies to those for whom this might not be very interesting : )
One day, as I read the first several chapters of the Book of Mormon, I realized something I’d never noticed before: Lehi, the prophet, and his son, Nephi, the prophet, were no such thing in the beginning of their record. They were Lehi, the regular Joe, and Nephi, his son. They were living in Jerusalem and going about their business when “there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Nephi 1:3). Lehi heard and was concerned and prayed to God with all his heart, and in response, he received a theophany. Because of what he saw and heard, he, too, began to sound the alarm among his people. Nephi was troubled by his father’s words, because he knew and loved his father and trusted that he was good, so he also prayed to know for himself if these things were true. It occurred to me for the first time that his unease suggests that this message of repentance was difficult to accept as truth, that perhaps he had been assuming that he and his city were living in ways pleasing to God. But he entertained the possibility enough to ask God, and God answered him, too. He received comfort, visions, and instructions for himself. He became a prophet, also.
This basic epiphany completely changed my life. If Nephi was just a normal person, a kid even!, and God showed such wonderful visions and power and glory to him, maybe he would do the same for me? And maybe things I’d always assumed to be one way were actually another. Maybe I didn’t understand everything to the extent that I thought I did. Maybe there was more God wanted to tell me. Maybe it was okay to ask!
Once I realized that Lehi and Nephi were not privy to the presence of God due to any institutional position or affiliation, but instead due to their status as human beings who cared, the floodgates burst open. I devoured the Book of Mormon in thrilled shock as story after story after story followed of people--just ordinary people who loved God and wanted to know him--parted the veil of mortality and came to know the mysteries of God and heaven in intimate, tangible ways. They knew God as his friends.They wanted others to know him, too. The crazy wonderful story of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” became more than just a crazy wonderful story, but instead THE story, the point of all scripture and prophetic record and action. God wants us to know him.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Do we understand what that scripture promises? In case we don’t, we have an epic narrative describing one man’s response to it and his testimony of its truth. We are promised answers. From God.
There’s always a catch, though, isn’t there?
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (v. 6-7). Or, as my son puts it, “But you better not waver, because if you think God won’t answer you… You’re right!” And that little caveat explains the majority of my failures to retrieve the things I desire from my God. Believing that he has the answer is easy; believing I deserve or am authorized to receive can be a doozy.
Throughout my life, but particularly in the past four years, God has given me so many specific stepping stones to be able to accept this simple, profound truth. He loves us and wants us to come to him so much more fully than we think we’re allowed to come. There are no parameters set around things that are lawful for us to ask to know and experience for ourselves. As Mormons, we gladly proclaim the truth that God is a living, knowable Being who is intimately invested in our lives. We talk about the nature of God and the power he extends to us as his children. We claim to understand God in a manner superior to any other religion. But when it comes to us as individuals, is this really true? For so many, many years, I hesitated to claim that power. I accepted my relationship with deity as a gentle whispering of the Spirit and never thought it could be more. If ever I pondered on those who knew Christ in the flesh and felt a twinge of jealousy, I felt ashamed to be grasping at things beyond my station.
The Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion, as we say, denounces this belief on its first page. The primary gift of this book is the promise it gives us that God is knowable and desires to be known. No matter who we are or what our past holds, we can come to know him. We can peer into heaven for ourselves. That is a promise from God, and it cannot and does not fail.
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.