So. Personal story first before I jump right into it.
I was a sophomore in college at BYU. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what I wanted to do in school. I was obsessed with music but had never been classically trained so a music program at BYU was probably out of the question for me. Towards the end of my first semester as a sophomore, I started to get these incessant desires to drop out and try for the life of a musician. Needless to say, I’m not a famous singer BUT. I did have an experience that changed my life forever.
As these desires to pursue music grew stronger and stronger, I started to talk it over with my parents, family members, and friends. As you can imagine, most were understandably opposed to the idea. I prayed and prayed and prayed about the idea, but nothing was coming until it all came to a head one night. My mother called me and told me that if I decided to drop out, her and my father would no longer financially support me. It wasn’t a “we’re so upset with your decision that we’re going to cut you off” scenario, but rather, it was a “if you choose this road, you’re choosing to be an adult and you’re going to have to support yourself.” As soon as I got off the phone, I prayed again and read my patriarchal blessing. I had never up until that point (nor any time since) had such a powerful experience with my patriarchal blessing. To be honest, it was even more powerful than when I originally received my patriarchal blessing. Words that I felt like I had never read before were jumping off the page and slapping me across the face. I knew immediately that Heavenly Father wanted me to drop out of college, and so that’s what I did.
As I mentioned previously, in case you haven’t noticed, I didn’t become the next Taylor Swift. However, I did get immensely sick the following semester. I could not, for the life of me, find a job to support myself. It got to the point where I had one can of soup in my cupboard and a bag of cheese in the fridge. My brother was working for an airline and got my mom a free ticket to fly up and visit me. At the end of her visit, I left Utah to go home with her.
I won’t share the rest of the story with you because honestly, that story was kind of the beginning of the rest of my life and who I’ve become today. What I really wanted to share with you from that story was the fact that I received a prompting that was very different than what others were receiving. We’ve been instructed by church leaders to get more education after high school, but at that point in time, I received a prompting to head a different route.
So this week’s Come Follow Me lessons include two stories that have shaped how I feel about revelation and what it means to “do the right thing.”
Story One – King Limhi Fleeing the Lamanites
Quick recap of King Limhi. King Limhi is the son of wicked King Noah. His people are in bondage. Ammon comes and finds them. They make a plan to get the Lamanite guards drunk, and they escape through the back pass. Now take a look at these verses:
And it came to pass that the people of king Limhi did depart by night into the wilderness with their flocks and herds, and they went round about the land of Shilom in the wilderness and bent their course towards the land of Zarahemla, being led by Ammon and his brethren.
And they had taken all their gold, and silver, and their precious things, which they could carry, and also their provisions with them, into the wilderness; and they pursued their journey.
Now take a look at this verse that isn’t part of Come Follow Me this week but is still a really cool verse.
1 Nephi 2:4
And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
So. Limhi’s people took their gold. Lehi’s people left their’s. Now you might say, “Well, duh. It just makes sense. Lehi’s people were going to America where they didn’t need riches. Limhi’s people were going to Zarahemla and having their riches would help them integrate better into a society that already had bartering systems.” Well then. Let’s look at another example.
Story Two – Alma, Daniel, and Prayer
Quick recap. Alma and the people he converted fled from King Noah to the land of Helam. The Lamanites found the land of Helam after trying to pursue Limhi’s people. The Lamanites take the people of Helam into bondage. Amulon, a former priest of King Noah who is now living with the Lamanites, gets put in charge of Alma’s people. He basically makes their lives miserable. As Alma’s people begin to cry unto God, Amulon demands that anyone who is caught praying should be put to death. Let’s read.
And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
Let’s compare that verse to Daniel of the Old Testament. Daniel was a subject of King Darius who signed an edict that likewise commanded the death of anyone who was caught praying, namely death by lion’s den. How did Daniel respond?
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Two very different responses to similar situations. Alma and his people prayed in their hearts and Daniel opened his window and prayed openly. It may be easy to recognize that both groups of people were right by the Lord’s standards when we’re reading it from the scriptures, but is it always so obvious in our lives today? Is it always so obvious when it involves someone we dearly love? Are we able to step back and give just a small amount of space for people who have felt prompted to do something out of the ordinary?
For our world today…
Someone close to me told me about her family growing up. She had a brother who decided he didn’t want anything to do with the church. Her father responded by forcing him to go. If the brother was living in the father’s house, he was required to go to church. The brother begrudgingly attended church and one day, a speaker touched his heart and changed him. The brother found his testimony and started going willingly. Sounds like dad did the right thing, right?
But let’s look at another example. I knew a woman who was involved in a young women’s stake presidency. However, her daughter was really struggling with wanting to attend church. This woman received a prompting to let her daughter skip young women’s or she would lose her daughter completely.
At first glance, I know a lot of people who would jump back at the idea of letting their children skip church. The first example makes far more sense to most members. However, it was exactly what this family needed.
Some people in The Book of Mormon brought their riches with them; others left their riches behind. Some people in The Book of Mormon prayed in their hearts for fear of being killed while an Old Testament prophet chose to openly pray regardless. Situations differ and therefore, revelation differs.
We have to be extremely careful about teaching our personal revelation as doctrine. We also have to be very careful about trying to tell someone that their revelation is wrong because it doesn’t fit in with our idea of “right.”
Elder Oaks said, “As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules…but don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”
I personally believe (not doctrine!) that exceptions are a rare case. However, they do exist. It places an extreme amount of responsibility on our shoulders to do the right thing and learn how to Hear Him.
Doctrine is doctrine. However, different principles apply to different situations. There IS room for people to make different choices and still be making righteous choices. I know that as we learn to listen to Heavenly Father, He can guide us on the right path for our unique lives and situations.