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Revelation can be tricky. It can be scary when you’re making a big decision, and it can be scary as you’re watching your loved ones make big decisions. People fret over whether they should marry someone, get divorced, take a job, date someone, move, etc. I’m sure we all know people who have looked back at their life and truly wondered whether they had been following revelation or had gotten mixed up. It’s difficult to watch your family move in a direction that concerns you even when they’re adamant they’re following revelation. It can feel helpless.
I’m not going to pretend to any secret algorithm about differentiating your own thoughts and Satan’s imitations and the Lord’s direction. I’m not going to pretend that I have answers about how to deal with things when people are making choices that affect you dramatically in the name of revelation. The process of learning revelation is as individual and flawed as each individual who has ever lived. Though the Lord is perfect, our vessels for receiving His perfection are not.
But what can we learn about revelation from this week’s Come Follow Me? I have four things that I’ve learned, and I’m just going to take them in order in the sections.
It mattereth not
Doctrine and Covenants 27:2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
I am very aware that the Lord was speaking about the sacrament particularly in this verse, but I think there’s a principle here that is very important. There are very few things in the church where we are only allowed to do things one way. The sacrament prayers are just a couple examples of this. Now I find it fascinating that even though the prayers are to be perfectly said, the Lord doesn’t care what you use as the food and drink. What exactly truly matters to the Lord? What He cares about is that it is done with an eye single to the glory of God.
There are things that the Lord is very particular about like the prayers, but there are a great many more things where particulars don’t matter as long as they are done with an eye single to His glory. Your job, where you move, what your degree should be, who you marry often fall into the second category. Though these decisions seem drastic to us, a job as an engineer at one firm will get you to heaven as fast as a different firm. Some places you move may seem scary for your kids and you worry about their activity, but kids can grow to be strong and have necessary experiences in scary places and strong places.
Does that mean your decision doesn’t matter at all? Of course not. There will be times when the Lord is particular. Move forward, and He will let you know if it’s the wrong course. I wouldn’t pick Oreo for my sacrament because they would be very distracting and my eye would not be single to His glory, and in that same breath, I wouldn’t pick some rando off the street to marry because they might be very distracting from the Lord as well.
Our decisions DO matter, tremendously, but the decisions that matter more than any other possible decision in this life is whether we will make each choice with our eye on the Savior. We could get everything else wrong, and we would still be okay if we consciously choose to look at the Savior.
Wild goose chases are there for a reason
Doctrine and Covenants 28:8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment.
The Lord sent Oliver Cowdery on a mission to the Lamanites. When you read, “Revelations in Context,” we learn that the mission to the Lamanites might be dubbed “unsuccessful.” Though the Delaware tribe was interested in what the missionaries had to say, a federal agent expelled the missionaries from the land and they could no longer teach there.
Fascinating side note. On their way to their mission, they met with Sidney Rigdon who was a former friend and mentor to Parley P. Pratt. Because of their work there, 127 people were baptized with some prominent, early church leaders being among them. Not to mention, Kirtland also became a huge gathering place for the saints and it would yield the first temple of our dispensation.
So why? Why did the Lord call them to preach unto the Lamanites and didn’t just send them straight to Kirtland? Perhaps the Lord did mean for them to baptize the Delawares, but He allows us to have our agency and the federal agent kicked them out of Indian Territory. That doesn’t mean the Lord’s work has been frustrated; Heavenly Father is used to working around our agency. Perhaps it was because the missionaries themselves needed to learn something important on their journey. Perhaps it was because they needed to move on from Kirtland so that the converts there could have experiences with the gospel independent of their beloved missionaries. There could be any number of reasons the Lord might have, but I can testify that seeming wild goose chases of the Lord have purpose. The Lord has purposes. Even if we’ve sent ourselves on a wild goose chase, the Lord does this cool thing where He still uses it to our advantage and helps us grow from it. So if you feel flung around, fear not. He has purposes in it, and unfortunately, He doesn’t always care to share those purposes. Our only real choice comes in whether we will trust it.
Satan sends scary imitations
Doctrine and Covenants 28:11 And again, thou shalt take thy brother, Hiram Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him;
Satan loves to counterfeit. Sometimes he pulls stuff straight out of nothing, but he often chooses to simply imitate what the Lord does. While this may seem vastly uncreative, it’s also really clever. How much more confusing it might have been for Hiram Page to receive revelations in a stone like Joseph Smith did through the Urim and Thummim.
This may be disconcerting for someone seeking revelation for a big decision. It may bring a pang of regret or a painful question to their mind of whether they made the right choice in a past circumstance.
Was I really supposed to marry this person? What if I wasn’t supposed to move here and now my children want nothing to do with the gospel? There are any number of questions we may ask ourselves, and as I said in the beginning, I profess no perfect answer. Perhaps your situation was such that you were deceived. Perhaps your situation was such that you made the right choice even if it had consequences you didn’t expect. Even if I knew your situation firsthand, I would not have that answer for you. So where is the comfort? How can the Lord trust us with our own salvation? It’s terrifying, right? Sometimes I look back on choices I made that could have forever affected me spiritually, and I shudder to think that it would have been so easy for me to make those decisions. Why does the Lord let us struggle and squirm and strive and fail when we’re trying to get back to Him?
Because you cannot truly lose if you don’t actually want to. The alternative to allowing us our agency and dire mistakes would be forced obedience, and we all know that would have completely destroyed the Plan of Salvation because we would have learned nothing and would have returned to our Heavenly Father in the same state we left Him. But that doesn’t mean this life has to be scary.
There are two kinds of decisions in this life. I will label them primary decisions and secondary decisions. Secondary decisions include what to eat, who to marry, career paths, almost every decision you make. Your primary decision is really just one decision that is repeated incessantly throughout your life: Am I trying my very best to follow what the Lord would have me do?
Your secondary decisions are important; they will affect your primary decision and make it easier or harder. But. You can get every. single. secondary decision wrong, and still make it to heaven if you’re making that primary decision correctly. That does not work in the reverse. If your primary decision is wrong, it doesn’t matter what your secondary decisions are.
If you know that you’ve got your primary decision together, but you worry that you’ve ruined the chances of others, take comfort.
The Lord loves those you love more than you love them, and they will have an opportunity to choose Him with clear eyes.