A Time for Confounding

June 28-July 4

If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on A Balanced Saint of Mind on YouTube. I post video versions of my blog posts on my channel. The video versions are often posted a little later than the written blog posts.

So around the time these sections were revealed, Ezra Booth had caused a lot of trouble. As mentioned in my previous video, he had sent letters to the Ohio Star newspaper and caused some trouble for the church. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were called to take a break from translating the bible to go serve a mini-mission and try to repair some damage. It lasted about a month, and then they were called to return to translation. A special conference was held in which many of the elders of the church wanted to know the Lord’s will, and that’s how we got Section 75. 

Back in the beginning of this week’s chapters, when Joseph and Sidney were called on mini-missions in Section 71, the Lord uses some particular phrasing that I want to talk about. 

Doctrine and Covenants 71:1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, that the time has verily come that it is necessary and expedient in me that you should open your mouths in proclaiming my gospel, the things of the kingdom, expounding the mysteries thereof out of the scriptures, according to that portion of Spirit and power which shall be given unto you, even as I will.

Joseph and Sidney are called to preach the gospel by expounding the mysteries according to that portion of Spirit and power which the Lord chooses to give. The portion of Spirit and power. This implies that not all of the Spirit and power will be received. It will only be a portion. 

Another example.

Doctrine and Covenants 71:9-10

9 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;

10 And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.

So the Lord promises that no weapon will prosper, but He also teaches that He only plans on confounding people in His own timing. Why is this? We know He has the power to do so. I am reminded of Elder Pratt’s account of an evening he spent with Joseph in chains. Joseph and the other men were chained, and the guards were talking about how they had brutally killed, robbed, and raped Latter-day Saints. Joseph stood in chains and commanded them to be silent, and the guards found themselves cowering and apologizing in a corner. Elder Pratt described Joseph as dignity and majesty. 

So the Lord can confound the enemies of the church whenever He wants. What are some of the reasons He chooses not to and what do these reasons teach us?

To take away growth

What would the world truly look like if the good guys always won immediately? How would the Plan of Salvation work if every bad teaching was immediately struck down and confounded?

Boring. Useless. A complete waste of time. We came to earth to grow and to learn to love the Lord. If the good guys won everything immediately, there would be no struggle to do the right thing. There would be no forging or testing of character. 

We did not come to earth for the sole purpose of being obedient. Please do not misunderstand the principle I’m trying to teach here. I believe in being obedient to the word of the Lord whether it comes through the Spirit or His chosen servants as they act under His direction. But we need to learn the purpose of obedience. Obedience is a means to an end. Obedience was meant to keep us in safe paths as we grow and learn. Obedience was to help develop that love for the Lord. Obedience was to help us grow in wisdom. 

If the good guys always won immediately, humans would simply learn obedience. There would be no need to learn beyond that without the struggle. We would see that the good were always rewarded, and we would act accordingly. Why would you act any other way than to always “win”? 

It voids the Plan of Salvation to merely learn obedience. Obedience is the precursor to wisdom. It is that upward growth, that “becoming” process, that acquisition of wisdom, that will truly bring happiness. If we only learned obedience, we would never reach the levels of happiness that our Heavenly Father dwells in. We have to learn from obedience. 

If we only saw the good guys win, we would never learn beyond obedience.

The love of the Lord

The Lord loves us. We are all very aware of this fact. Many of us have been taught this fact our entire lives. And yet, so often, we fail to attribute that when trying to explain the reasoning of the Lord.

What does the love of the Lord have to do with His timing for confounding?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that, “Except under very unusual circumstances, debates play no part in the approved system of presenting the message of salvation to the world or of persuading members of the Church to accept a particular doctrine or view. Almost always a debate entrenches each contestant and his sympathizers more firmly in the views already held.”

Think back on any time you’ve entered into a debate that was spiritual. I’m not talking about fruitful discussions where we’re learning from each other. I’m talking about actual debate. In most cases, we find the words of Bruce R. McConkie to be the truth. Most people just entrench themselves farther into their views. 

When we debate, we also often (not always) find ourselves with impure motives. In the heat of the moment, we ask ourselves how another person could be so clueless. In the heat of the moment, we exasperate and want them to see how right we are. We want to prove them wrong. This may have originated in a good place; we may have originally wanted to share the gospel. However, in the heat of a debate, it morphs and we find ourselves without the Spirit.

The Lord loves each of us. He wants us to find the gospel, and if debate and argumentation are going to further entrench some of His children into their incorrect traditions, He is going to want to avoid that.

Doctrine and Covenants 71:8-10

8 Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.

9 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;

10 And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.

The Lord invites them to bring their strong reasons, but as missionaries, He asks US to bring the Spirit. In Section 75, the Lord is teaching His elders about how to perform missionary work.

Doctrine and Covenants 75:9-10

9 And let my servant Luke Johnson go with him, and proclaim the things which I have commanded them—

10 Calling on the name of the Lord for the Comforter, which shall teach them all things that are expedient for them

It is the Comforter, the Spirit, that teaches what is truly expedient for us. The Lord knows that the Spirit is the mechanism for conversion, not debate. He doesn’t care about whether you win a debate in the moment so that you don’t look foolish. He cares about each of His children returning to Him.

So imagine this scenario.

You are approached by a preacher of another faith, and this preacher has brought their strong reasons. You have explanations for their strong reasons, but when you try to share those reasons, they seem to fall flat. There is no power behind them. There has been no confounding, and it can make you feel inadequate. 

If you have tried your very best to do the right thing, the lack of “confounding” has nothing to do with your worthiness. It has everything to do with how much the Lord loves that preacher. If that preacher is not ready to receive the Spirit (the true mechanism for conversion), then the time for being “confounded” has not yet arrived for this person. 

So often, we’re ready for the good guys to triumph. We love the stories where people were just astounded and evil received its due, and the good guys put the bad guys in their place. For us, to “confound” means to win.

For the Lord, “confounding” is a tool to bring more of His children to Him. He will use it only in circumstances where it brings about that specific purpose: conversion of more of His children.

What do these reasons teach us?

So the Lord chooses His tool of “confounding” wisely. He uses it when it will truly influence His children towards repentance. He’s not going to use it every time because it would refute our growth and therefore, the Plan of Salvation.

What does this teach me?

Honestly, more than anything, it teaches me that the Lord knows what He’s doing. He has His reasons. He knows our hearts. He is always doing the best thing that will bring us back to Him. Sometimes that means letting the incorrect traditions continue on for a time, as counterintuitive as that may seem. 

In the end, it will be the Spirit that changes us and teaches us. Constant ability to confound our enemies will not truly change us or bring us closer to the Lord. The Lord knows that the true path for conversion can only come from the Spirit. This means that nothing else (signs, confounding, miracles) can get in the way of the Spirit changing us.

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