Episode 29. August 14, 2016. Today I want to talk about unbelief that limits our progression and access to some of the most marvelous blessings imaginable.
I used to pretty much ignore the concept of unbelief in the scriptures. Whenever I would read the word, I just figured the writer was talking to those without any faith. Surely that didn’t apply to me. And so I went happily on my way. And then a few years back a good friend of mine gave me the manuscript of John Pontius’ book “The Call of Zion”. It was later published as “Triumph of Zion”. As I read the manuscript, I liked what I read, but I was struggling to believe all of it. I mean, why weren’t the leaders of the church talking about these principles of translation, having our calling and election made sure and receiving the second comforter at General Conference?
That initial experience really got me thinking in a big way about the promises in the scriptures. About a year later we were having stake conference and I had been assigned 10 minutes in Priesthood Leadership Meeting to talk about any topic I felt inspired to present. Because I had read “The Call of Zion”, I was continually drawn to the comments of Brigham Young, President Packer and President Uchtdorf about living beneath our privileges. I wanted to talk about just what these privileges were and why it was that we were living beneath them.
After talking with one of our high councilors for an hour one day to get a second opinion as to whether or not I should discuss this topic during a session of stake conference, I decided to press forward. My thesis was essentially that as priesthood holders we have great privileges to claim, yet we are still struggling with doing our home teaching and being diligent in our callings. We needed to raise the bar on our own performance if we ever hoped to claim these greater privileges.
Now what I have not yet mentioned is that Elder Marlin K. Jensen was our visiting General Authority for the conference.
After spending a few minutes brainstorming with those in attendance what privileges were available to us, I turned to one of my favorite scriptures in section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants. It verse 1:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”
So there it was, the promise that if we repent, come unto Christ, pray, obey the still small voice and keep the commandments we can see the face of the Lord. If you read the first 15 verses in that section, it is pretty clear this verse is referring to our time on this earth as opposed to the next life. I ended the session by challenging all of us to raise our sights and claim our blessings.
Elder Jensen then spoke immediately following my short presentation. I was a little uncertain about how he might respond. What he said, however, put my heart at ease and strengthened all of us. He told us that President Packer was speaking to the General Authorities at a training meeting and told them that many were living beneath their privileges, and then he quoted D&C 93:1. Elder Jensen then mentioned he had never before heard this topic discussed in a stake conference. He left me with the impression that indeed these promises were for us as well. Following the session, another one of our High Councilors, Kevin, approached me with a few scriptures he had been studying and that began a conversation that has continued to this day. A few weeks later he asked if I had heard of John Pontius, I indicated that I had, and I told him I just wasn’t sure I believed everything he had written. He referred to some of John’s firesides, which I later listened to and was inspired by. I could immediately hear the spirit in John’s voice and I knew he was an honest seeker of truth. That series of events has changed my life for the better.
If any of you are interested, here is a link to his inspiring firesides.
Okay so what does unbelief have to do with all of this?
The more I learned about the privileges afforded to us as children of a loving Heavenly Father, the more I had to ask myself whether or not I believed it. Well, that wasn’t hard, of course I believed it! There are so many evidences in the scriptures about these things happening to prophets like Isaiah, Samuel, Peter, Paul, John, Lehi, Nephi, Alma and many many more including, perhaps most importantly, the Brother of Jared. Joseph Smith talked about it constantly. And in our day Elder Bruce R. McConkie and President Marion G. Romney have spoken openly about these topics. If you are interested here is a link to BYU-I page with a number of these addresses available. In April 2013, President Boyd K. Packer gave a stirring address titled “These Things I Know” where he essentially testified of his own spiritual experiences with these topics.
Well, it seems that it is always easier to believe that these blessings are available to other people, especially prophets and general authorities. But do I believe that they are available to me? Do you think they are available to you? That I think is the harder question. That is the question of unbelief.
In Mark 16:14 the risen Christ chastised his faithful apostles about this problem of unbelief. Here is what it says: “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”
Isn’t that interesting. These apostles that had been with him in his ministry, had been nurtured by Him, loved by Him, taught by Him and learned from Him, yet when it came to thinking beyond what they thought they knew, they succumbed to unbelief. They were simply unwilling to consider that there might still be things that they did not fully understand. They drew boundaries around what they thought was possible and discarded the rest. This brought them a sharp rebuke from the Savior. This is what I think often plagues us as Latter Day Saints. I know it has been a problem for me.
As I worked through my own unbelief, I remembered hearing a quote about Joseph Smith that was published in the Millennial Star in September of 1893. (The Millennial Star was the forerunner to today’s Ensign Magazine.)
It was recorded by Robert Horne: “On May 23, 1843, I listened to a discourse preached in the Nauvoo temple, which was then only partially finished. Brother Joseph was talking on the pre-existence of our spirits, and our relations to God in the spirit world, and our standing in the family circle of our Father. Now I am telling the truth, and I remember that while thus talking he suddenly turned around to the Apostles sitting on the stand and said in effect: ‘Brethren, if I were to tell you all I know of the kingdom of God, I do know that you would rise up and kill me.’ Brother Brigham arose and said, ‘Don’t tell me anything that I can’t bear, for I don’t want to apostatize.’”
So what can we do to eliminate, or at least diminish this unbelief in our own lives?
I think Elder Whitney L. Clayton, said it best in his October 2001 conference address titled: Help Thou My Unbelief “We simply go and do the things the Lord has commanded, even when we are weary, trusting that He will help us to do exactly as He asks. As we do so, the Lord helps our unbelief, and our faith becomes powerful, vibrant, and unshakable. The Prophet Joseph wrote from Liberty Jail, “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance [or faith], to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
Here are 5 additional ideas that might be of help:
- Nourish ourselves with more evidence of God and Christ than of things of the world. Joseph Smith taught that the “The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on this Earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other book.” Let’s put that to the test by studying it daily. Let’s replace our unbelief with knowledge found in the scriptures.
- Get outside of ourselves by serving others. In an April 1981 conference address, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve said “We serve that which we love. If we sacrifice and give our love for that which our Father in Heaven asks of us, it will help us set our footsteps upon the path of eternal life. We love what we serve.”
- Sincerely pray that our unbelief will be swallowed up by the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement. One way for this to occur is to pray for humility and correction that we might become better disciples, that we can more easily recognize the hand of God in our lives. Another thing we can pray for is that our lives will be filled with the pure love of Christ, even to the consuming of our flesh. (2 Nephi 4:21)
- Surround ourselves with good friends whose faith and belief is greater than our own. Ask them to teach us so that we might learn from them.
- Listen more carefully for the still small voice of the spirit of God and record each one of them. After the prompting is followed, record the result. You will be amazed.
I want to summarize today by quoting Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from a talk titled “Rending the Veil of Unbelief” given at BYU’s Sperry Symposium in 1995.
“The Book of Mormon is predicated on the willingness of men and women to “rend that veil of unbelief” in order to behold the revelations—and the Revelation—of God (Ether 4:15). It would seem that the humbling experience of the brother of Jared in his failure to pray and his consternation over the sixteen stones were included in this account to show just how mortal and just how normal he was—so very much like the men and women we know and at least in some ways so much like ourselves. His belief in himself and his view of himself may have been limited—much like our view of ourselves. But his belief in God was unprecedented. It was without doubt or limit: “I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger” (Ether 3:4).
And from that command given to the Lord, for it does seem to be something of a command, the brother of Jared and the reader of the Book of Mormon would never be the same again. Ordinary individuals with ordinary challenges could rend the veil of unbelief and enter the realms of eternity. And Christ, who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem His people, would be standing at the edge of that veil to usher the believer through.”
I really hope that none of us will be subject to the warning found in 2 Nephi 28:27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
May we all seek for more. May we eliminate unbelief in our lives and open ourselves up to the marvelous privileges and blessings that are available to every single person who is willing to pay the price.
If you would like to find the links to the articles and firesides I mentioned earlier, they can be found at znukmot.wordpress.com.