Sunday, November 24, 2013

I See… Why We Don’t Know Beforehand the Things Which We Should Do

How great would life be if we could know with clarity the exact consequences of important life choices? It sure would be easier for me to make plans on when, where, and how to retire, and for my son to feel more comfortable about critical career choices.  Unfortunately, God often leaves even the best of us hanging- Nephi had this problem when he went back to retrieve the plates of brass from Laban:  “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”(Nephi 4:6) Those of us who have been directed by personal revelation down a certain path may not know why, yet we keep moving forward according to our faith. But why do we not know why? Is it merely a matter of faith, or something more?

I suspect that Nephi’s experience retrieving the brass plates may hold the key.  Those of you who have started reading the Book of Mormon a bazillion times know exactly what I mean. After acknowledging that he was being led by the Spirit and did not know instinctively what to do next, he killed a defenseless, drunken high priest, despite his initial misgivings about taking life. It wasn’t until he was at the threshold of doing the deed that the Lord’s justification was revealed: “Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”(1 Nephi 4:13)

Do you think that if the Lord had directed Nephi in a dream that “Tomorrow, I want you to sneak back into Jerusalem, find Laban, and kill him in order to get those brass plates,” he would have actually done it? Perhaps so, but maybe not- we know how Nephi felt about shedding blood: “but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.” (1 Nephi 4:10)

I suspect that more often than not, God does not provide us with an accurate picture of our future because he knows that if we knew what difficult learning experiences lie ahead, we may be tempted to “shrink” from it. Personally, I’m glad I wasn’t warned in advance that serving a mission or finishing graduate school would be so challenging.

Such is the power of faith- the power for us to face the arduous unknowns of life, knowing only that God makes it possible for us to learn from them instead of being swallowed by them.

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