Discussing Spiritual Differences- Summary

The idea of how to share the gospel message with others has been a recurring theme on this blog. I guess I have many questions about how to negotiate that intersection of living a godly life and living as a cooperative member of society.
Wanting to share the gospel in a socially kind way isn’t only about avoiding unpleasant tension, it is also essential to presenting your message in the light that was always intended to accompany it. You simply do not become a good missionary without first learning how to be a good brother or sister to your fellowman.
This study helped me to reiterate some of the ideas I’ve had on the subject before and also gave rise to some new ones. Here are some of the core concepts that stood out to me from my research.

Come to Your Own Knowledge)

First and foremost, you cannot properly testify of what you do not personally know. Testimonies that come from a place of “or so I’ve been told” are unhelpful to everyone involved. A testimony is not what you think and it’s certainly not what you’ve been told, it is what you have come to actually gain a knowledge of for your own self.
But most of us are terrified by the idea of admitting when we do not know something. Everyone has an answer to every moral question, even when they haven’t given the matter any prior thought. And I know that this game of pretended knowledge occurs because I have played it myself. I have spoken as if I had a sure confidence when I really didn’t. And I have seen enough to know I am not the only one that has done so. There are pretenders everywhere.
And there is no point in considering the question of how to testify of good and renounce evil unless we have first come to truly know what is right. To be able to testify with power you must be able to testify with confidence. You have to be able to believe your own words before you can expect anyone else to. And if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, then set aside the question of testifying for a time and focus instead on just coming to really, really know.
Matthew 15:14- Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Alma 32:34- And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

Wake Up the World)

But bit-by-bit one can come to know what they’re talking about. Not all at once, not the entire whole as a single piece, but gradually one can come to be sure that faith yields fruit, that repentance yields cleansing, that sacrifice yields humility, and that following God yields true happiness. Even before one can testify of all things they are able to testify of some.
And not only are they able to testify, they must! For there is already such false confidence given to hurtful philosophies that many men and women are left confused and derailed. When one awakens to the truth one sees how much untruth is being championed as fact. And untruth actively causes harm, it is sure to hurt the lives of those that abide by it.
One cannot idly sit back when these realities become apparent. We must try to help those in harm’s way, even if it means speaking with such boldness that some will become angry at us. We are compelled to renounce the lies and champion the truth. Not because we wish to condemn our brothers and sisters who are deluded, but because we love them and we want to help them.
Matthew 5:14- Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid
Acts 4:29-30- And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Ever an Invitation)

We are meant to preach with boldness, we are meant to renounce sin without reservation, we are meant to speak of absolute truth in absolute terms. Our words and our example should testify of the truth with such weight that those who hear it cannot help but be moved. Moved to say to themselves “well I had better find out for myself on this matter.” Truth testified boldly has that effect: to compel the hearer to come to their own knowledge. It inspires men and women to find their own surety.
But…though we seek to be bold, to compel, and to inspire, in none of these ambitions is there justification for trying to force. I can make clear my own convictions, but I must never try to make your own convictions for you. This gospel is one of invitation. The message should be given in a very clear and powerful manner, but then it must be left to the hearer what they will do with it.
And some will choose to do nothing with that message and some of them will choose to fight against it, and we must accept and allow that. Though we seek to make the world a better place, we know that it can only be better when people are able to choose it for themselves.
2 Nephi 2:27- Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:41- No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:11-16

Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

COMMENTARY

I have previously discussed the impasse between Daniel and the prince of the eunuchs in this story, but also the devoted relationship that existed between them. Today I will consider the test that Daniel proposed to resolve their disagreement.

And as thou seest, deal with thy servants
I want to begin with the very tail end of Daniel’s proposal. This statement, ‘as thou seest, deal with thy servants’ is extremely submissive. If the prince allows for this test to run its course, then Daniel will abide by whatever decision that man makes, even if it is to not honor Daniel’s diet. No more argument from Daniel on the matter, no rebellion, the prince will have whatever he thinks is best.
And this shows that Daniel truly cares for the prince’s priorities, too. His reason for recommending a clean diet is not only because it is Daniel’s own preference, but also because it will fit the prince’s own interests better than the meat and wine. Daniel genuinely believes that the Lord’s law of health is the better solution for both of them.
So yes, Daniel is being submissive, but also extremely confident. The two are not mutually exclusive. Daniel can afford to be submissive because of his enormous confidence that God’s wisdom will be better than any prescription of man.

Prove thy servants, and give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat
Because at the end of the day, Daniel knows that he is in the right. Not just the right for being a good Hebrew, but the right for being the best and healthiest person that he can be, even in the qualities that the prince of the eunuchs is valuing.
It is important for us to recognize that when we are in the moral right it will be self-evident. Truth is self-proving. When we are established on true principles, then we do not have to argue to convince anyone of it. The only argument necessary is to have the other look at us, and it will be written into our faces, written into our demeanor, written into every part of who we are and what we do.

A Surety of Truth- My Better Truth

The journey of discipleship is mostly a slow and gradual process. We make a sincere commitment to following our Savior, we make him the central force in our life, and then we incrementally become more aligned to his nature. Slowly our behavior pulls itself into harmony with our conscience, and one day we look back and are amazed at how far he has brought us.

But every now and again the changing of the heart is not so effortless or subtle. At some moments we come to a critical juncture, one that will make a dramatic impact one way or another. For now that we have become improved, and can see more clearly, we finally realize that a long-held pillar of our belief is deeply flawed. Where before it seemed a critical foundation of truth, we now see it as an attempt to shore up our childish misconceptions.

To topple it seems a terrifying prospect, though, as we are uncertain what else might break if we do. Is it possible to let go of a misconception without letting go of everything else along with it? If the rotting wood is a piece of your foundation, what happens when it is removed?

I once faced this very dilemma after I had been cleaning up my soul for nearly a year. With the Lord’s help many layers of grime had been cleaned from my windows, and I was finally starting to see a clearer view of reality. And through them I suddenly came to the realization that maybe God wasn’t the severe and condemning Father I had always made him out to be. I knew the scriptures said “God is love,” but I had always seen Him as “tough love.” He punished me for my own good, I believed. My default prayer always began with “I’m sorry for…”

But now, this image just wasn’t lining up anymore. It didn’t fit with the new God I was discovering, and I felt as though God was hurt that I continued to approach Him in that manner. I was actively becoming a better person, and it didn’t have anything to do with a God who punished me into it. He had been overflowing me with grace, not fear, and that had been what made the change in me.

Was it heresy to let go of the old image of God, to try approaching Him in a different way? A part of me insisted yes, but another part said it had to happen, or else I would be forever limited. And in between those two I was amazed that I simply got to choose. Truth is truth, no matter what, but to align with it is a personal choice.

In the end, I chose the reality that I felt was truer: that of a kind and loving God.

A Surety of Truth- Question

In my previous study I considered how each of us has our own personal beam or mote within the eye. As flawed humans we all have a bias, and as a result see patterns in the world that are not there. However we never see our own biases as biases, we see them as empirical truths, inseparable from the foundations of reality.

If we are lucky, one day we will have our perspective irreconcilably challenged, such that we cannot deny that we were wrong. There are few blessings as wonderful as realizing that we have been wrong. For knowing that we were wrong is a prerequisite to becoming better.

But in that effort to become better some confounding questions arise. Now we know that our personal truths were flawed…how can we have confidence that the next truths we settle on will be any better? If we humans are fundamentally flawed, then are we doomed to just always hold fractured philosophies?

With this study I want to consider how we go from a broken belief system to a sure one. How can be confident in our principles, after we were let down by our previous ones? How can we know when we know rightly? How can we not be paralyzed by the fear that we will still make mistakes even as we try our best? How can we accept the guidance of wise leaders, while also accepting that even wise leaders will have some opinions that are wrong?

I would be curious to see how you have dealt with these conundrums in your own life? How do you avoid crippling yourself with doubts? Have you ever had to reconstruct your beliefs after one of your pillars was toppled? What is the core foundation of your belief system now?

Who Am I?- Luke 4:3, 13; Matthew 16:13-14; Mark 6:3; Matthew 26:63, 65; John 18:33

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

COMMENTARY

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God…
And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

In the account of Jesus’s temptations in the desert, twice the nature of his divine identity is brought under attack. Satan tries to stir doubt that Jesus really is who he is, and goads him into proving hos holy sonship.
It is an ingenious ploy, for to rise to the challenge and prove that he really was the son of God, would be for Jesus to reveal that he actually had an insecurity about it. If you really know that you are who you are, you don’t need to prove it to anyone.
Jesus resists the temptations, and finishes the encounter safe and secure. Surely, though, this was not the end of the his and the devil’s duel. Indeed, the entire exchange finishes with the telling phrase “he departed from him…for a season.”

Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Is not this the carpenter?
Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God….He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?
Art thou the King of the Jews?

In fact, a review of the gospels readily proves that the assault on Jesus’s identity was far from over. Many times the claims of his divine sonship was challenged, questioned, and rejected.
People tried to tell him that he was a carpenter, a devil, a blasphemer, a prisoner. Even those that probably meant well mislabeled him as John the Baptist, or some other prophet. At one time Jesus remarked that even his own disciples did not know who he really was (John 14:9).
Satan knew that Jesus’s entire mission could be broken if he could get the Savior to question who he really was. If he could make Jesus unsure, even once, he would be defeated.
But Jesus was sure.

The Virtue of Remembering- Judges 6:12, 14, 17, 21-22, 25, 27

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
And Gideon said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.

And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto Gideon, Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is with thee. Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel: have not I sent thee?
Shew me a sign that thou talkest with me
The entire account of Gideon, in Judges chapters 6-8, is well worth studying for how it shows the man moving from one great act to another, in each step being motivated by the remembrance of the last. Today I have shared snippets just from the very foundation of his campaign.
Here we see God calling Gideon to free the Israelites, and Gideon asking for an assurance which is granted. A small miracle occurs, and it is enough to convince Gideon of his holy calling. The memory of that moment will be fundamental for him moving forward.

And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto Gideon, Throw down the altar of Baal
Then did as the Lord had said unto him: and because he feared his father’s household he could not do it by day, that he did it by night
That very same night, when the memory of the holy encounter would still be fresh in Gideon’s mind, the Lord gives Gideon his first test. Gideon is motivated enough to carry out the task, though he is also still weighed by the fear of the people. He performs the deed in the dead of night when none can witness it, but he does do it.
This, I believe is a turning point for Gideon. Now he does not only have the memory of the angelic visitation, he also has the recollection of he, himself, acting for good, even when it was hard to do.
God uses this same pattern numerous times throughout the scriptures. David faces a lion before Goliath, and Goliath before leading a nation. Abraham is commanded to sacrifice the home of his birth before sacrificing his son. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego hold to their principles of diet before holding to their principles in the furnace.
God is very wise in this pattern of initiating us through a small test of faith. It isn’t just about building up our confidence in Him, it is building our confidence in ourselves. When we reach our hardest times we are preserved by two memories:
1) God is good
2) And so am I

What Chance Do I Have?- 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:27

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

COMMENTARY

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power
Peace I leave with you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid
It might be natural for us to try and weigh the odds of our remaining faithful, to question whether we have the “right stuff” and can hold out valiant. But such a spirit of uncertainty is not divinely approved. Many a soul runs into trouble when they start to question if they have the capacity to be good, creating for themselves a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Rather we are reminded that God gives a spirit of power, and of peace.
We are commanded to be faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11). Most often we speak of being faithful as being loyal, but the composition of the word literally means “full of faith.” And included among the “all things” that we should have full faith in…is ourselves. When I feel God’s spirit I feel a confidence in myself, an assurance that I am made in His image and that I am good. That isn’t to say that I don’t need help, only that I know God believes in me, so I should, too. The “right stuff” is in me, I don’t need to worry about that. I just need to get out of its way and let it shine forth.

Personal Promises- 2 Samuel 7:12, 16-17; 2 Chronicles 1:8-9

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.

And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead.
Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.

COMMENTARY

And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established
Previously we observed how God’s promise to Abraham was renewed with each of the generations that followed. Another example of His promises being made fresh can be found with the kings of Israel. Saul first held the promise for an eternal kingdom, but he tragically lost that covenant when he disobeyed God’s commands.
So, naturally, God needed to make a new oath with David when he was anointed king. Solomon evidently knew of the promises that God had made to his father, but he wanted to gain his own assurance of them. He sought confirmation from God and he received it.
It is in our nature to read the promises that God has made to others and hope that we might receive the same. When He makes promises with us we feel an empowering assurance. God knows these aspects of our nature, and utilizes them both to promote our faith. By establishing relationships with others He inspires in us the hope to seek Him personally. Then, by answering that seeking, He gives us an unshakable confidence to do good.

Faith vs Fear- Hebrews 11:1, 7; Luke 9:2-3

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house

And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.

COMMENTARY

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, prepared an ark
Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece

What exactly do the works of faith look like? In Noah’s case he was warned that something bad was going to happen and so he prepared. But later Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the essentials of life, and to instead trust that those would be provided for them.
Noah could be considered a fearmonger, or Jesus a flippant idler…if it wasn’t for the fact that they were both right in what they did. In the end the flood did come and the disciples were cared for. God’s ways ebb and flow, and under different contexts an action of faith can take entirely different forms.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen
Because in the end faith isn’t just based in the unseen, it is also based on what is true. Sometimes that truth may be that there is danger and you must prepare, other times the truth is that you will be protected and need not fear. Acting in faith is not a rash gamble where you hope God will catch you, nor is it wearing tin hats “just in case” someone is trying to read your mind. It is an informed and conscious decision, an assurance based upon the foresight only God can provide.