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The church has been officially restored! God’s kingdom is again on the earth, and people now have access to His living church and His saving ordinances. Though much of the world has become disillusioned by organized religion, there are a great many blessings that come from membership within the kingdom of God. This is highlighted by different principles taught in these sections, and it is further emphasized by the fact that Heavenly Father was requiring baptism by immersion for all who desired to be united with His church (regardless of whether they had been baptized by immersion previously).
There were some people present in these early times in the church who questioned why they needed to be re-baptized. Many of us have grown up in the church, and so we have been taught the tradition of the priesthood and its role in ordinances. We were raised with the understanding that we need the Lord’s power in order to make our ordinances last beyond the veil because we don’t hold that power within ourselves. The idea of these converts needing to be rebaptized makes sense to us.
Though that particular doctrine may make sense to us, we may run into other things that cause us to feel the same as these new converts. “Why is this a thing?” Because things in the church are still changing, sometimes we may run into things that cause us to feel like these people who didn’t understand why they needed to get baptized again. Perhaps this is a “new” take on doctrine. Perhaps this is a policy that makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps this is something in the church that we think is superfluous.
When people were confused as to why they needed to get re-baptized, the Lord responded with the following.
Doctrine and Covenants 22:4 Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.
Now for those of us that have experienced a crisis of faith in relation to unfamiliar doctrine or an uncomfortable policy, this verse may not feel comforting. It may feel dismissive, especially if this is the response that another member gives you when you’re attempting to reconcile personal feelings with the church.
I hope this post feels anything but dismissive. I have learned in my life that the times when the Lord is truly speaking to me, I feel loved even when the rest of the world may judge the words as dismissive. I remember writing an email home from my mission about a chastisement I had received. I was surprised the next week when I found tons of encouraging emails that seemed to be worried about me. When I had written about my experience being chastised, I was excited and wanted to share how I learned what was really important in life. Though I had felt chastised by the Lord, I hadn’t felt discouraged. I felt closer to the Lord. When you receive your answer about whatever it is you’re seeking, you will feel closer to the Lord. You won’t feel dismissed or discouraged. The Spirit has a way of making us feel encouraged even when the Lord is directing us anew.
My attempt in this post will be to help you hear how the Lord is instructing you in that verse. If I fail, please ignore the post and be patient with yourself and the Lord. He will lead you along; do not fear.
There are a couple possible reasons that I want to talk about why these people may have been confused about the necessity of rebaptism. While I’m using this example of rebaptism, please note that I’m trying to teach general principles about accepting things that may be difficult for us to swallow. I’m not trying to teach specifically about priesthood and rebaptism.
Incomplete understanding of the doctrine
This is potentially another phrase that may feel dismissive, but bear with me.
If you were a scientist trying to learn about why a natural process was occurring, would you feel fear or panic or dread when you started making observations that didn’t make sense to you yet? And if you did experience those feelings, would they help you solve anything? No!
If you are having questions about aspects of history, doctrine, or policy, please remember first and foremost that fear, panic, and dread are tools of the adversary. Satan uses them to distract you. Imagine how much harder it would be to come to any kind of conclusions about nature if you’re constantly being distracted by fear over what your observations could mean.
Some would argue with me that fear could be a sign that you should run away. I suppose in cases of fight or flight, this is true. Fear can be a helpful instinct for survival in some cases, but fear will never be helpful when you’re seeking to understand something better. It simply isn’t logical to make a decision about spirituality based in fear. Now, if you feel guided somewhere else, that is a completely different thing. What I am simply arguing against is letting fear make the decision for you. Stick around long enough that your decision about the church can be made in peace. That also makes it easier to trust your own decision.
When you have an incomplete picture of the doctrine, Heavenly Father can answer in a couple of ways. He could let you know that something has not been made perfect in the church yet. He could let you know why something happened. For all I know, He could give you a grand vision about it so that you can receive that complete picture of doctrine. And then sometimes, Heavenly Father can simply let you know to hold tight for a little while.
Heavenly Father will not always answer you directly when it comes to a spot of history or doctrine, but I promise that you don’t have to sit around and wonder what you should be doing. When you’ve been praying about something for a long time and you’ve received no answer, try asking your Heavenly Father whether this is still the road you should be taking. Ask Him whether you’re on the right track to eventually understanding. He will counsel you, and you will feel more comfort than you did before. You can move forward knowing that Heavenly Father has a plan for you even if you don’t fully understand something.
To put it in a more concrete example, let’s say my mom is trying to give me directions somewhere without telling me where I’m headed exactly. I periodically call her on the phone to get the next turn or to learn how long I should be headed straight. Eventually I see a sign that really doesn’t look right to me, and a pit forms in my stomach. I call my mom. I keep asking her about that sign on the side of the road, but it’s not information that she’s willing to give me. Instead, she encourages me and tells me to keep going. She says that sign will make sense once I get where I’m going. I find comfort because even though I don’t understand that particular road sign, I have a mother who is loving me and directing and says I’m on the right path.
I find great peace in feeling my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I find great peace in feeling guided by Him even when I don’t understand everything.
So. Perhaps you can’t see the whole picture yet. There is an incomplete understanding of the doctrine. Dispel your fear so you can have that channel with your Heavenly Father open. Pray about your questions, but also pray about whether you should continue on even if the information is not forthcoming.
Believed in the limited power of man
One of the reasons these new converts struggled was because they believed in the limited power of people. They believed that their baptism could last beyond the grave despite there being no heavenly power behind it. They believed that the power man held was sufficient.
This can take different forms in other questions we may find.
Perhaps we struggle with an aspect of history in the church. Well who recorded the history? People. People who made mistakes, people who were enemies of the church.
I think of the immense amounts of discord that can happen over misunderstood text messages and comments on social media. Intent and meaning can all be heard so very wrong, and we expect the history of the church to not have its examples of problems? The first thing we can recognize is the fact that no matter how purely intentioned we are, we are looking through the colored glass of history written by mere men and women.
Now this may still not be sufficient. There are aspects of history that people truly struggle with, aspects of history that are inarguable. For example, there are plenty of people who still feel uncomfortable with polygamy. It’s an inarguable fact that polygamy occurred. That is a truth that isn’t necessarily colored by opinion; it happened, and some people feel legitimately distraught over it.
Please be careful that you’re not listening to your own wisdom over the Lord’s.
Perhaps you’re finding yourself asking me, “But how do I ignore these feelings? Why should I ignore past mistakes? Why should I ignore something I feel is wrong?”
Do not mistake my meaning. I am not asking you to ignore it. You should never ignore something that gives you those feelings, that’s how we run into trouble. Instead, I ask you to find your testimony regarding two things.
1) Do I have a loving, all-wise Creator who respects, supports, and adores me?
2) Is this the road He wants me to take?
If you know you have a perfect, loving Creator who respects and adores you, then you can rest easy that He will lead you to the best place for you. If this is the road He wants you to take, then you can also rest assured that there is something in the situation that you cannot yet see. If you have received your answers regarding these things, then choose faith. Don’t attempt to tell you Savior that you know better and need answers. Do not seek to counsel your God.
Ask questions and seek to understand and try to learn, but do not seek to counsel Him. I promise that He’s doing what’s best for you, and someday the curtain will be drawn back and you will feel that love and wisdom in a very powerful way.