Discussing Spiritual Differences- John 18:37-38, Matthew 5:14

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

COMMENTARY

Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?
It is in our nature when we hear something untrue to correct it. Even small children cannot help but call out when a known fact is misstated. Point at something and call it the wrong color, mess up on a simple mathematical operation, attribute a quote to the incorrect historical figure, lie about where you were yesterday…someone will call you out on it. There is something in each of us that just wants for the truth to be spoken.
And certainly this applies to moral truth as well. When we have awoken to the balance of right and wrong we become unsettled to hear any declaration that is morally askew. When others speak a morally untrue message we feel compelled to correct it.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid
And this is a great source of friction to those that proselyte, for there are some who would rather they just kept their moral truths to themselves.
But exercising that restraint runs contrary to the very nature of truth. Truth is like a light: it shines forth. It is a city on a hill that cannot be hid, a candle that cannot be stowed beneath a bushel. When someone casts shades of untruth, whether it be “1 + 1 = 3” or “joy can be found in carnal living,” then truth is compelled to sweep forward to correct it. Truth, even undesired truth, yearns to fill every dark corner with light.

Leading to Water- Matthew 16:17, Matthew 19:17, John 16:7, 20 (NIV)

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

COMMENTARY

Blessed art thou: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God
Jesus was the literal son of God and only perfect being to walk the earth, yet even he urged his disciples to look higher than himself. He was stressing to them the importance of getting personally connected to the Maker, rather than trying to work through any secondary source.
Perhaps this was because Jesus spent his youth and early adult life getting to know his father before fully embracing his ministry and role as the savior (Luke 2:52). He was simply preaching what he had practiced.

It is for your good that I am going away. You will weep, but your grief will turn to joy
This next verse is very interesting. Jesus is informing his disciples that he will very soon leave this earthly realm, and he is saying that this is a good thing for them. At the time that might have seemed a very strange pronouncement, but he was able to see the bigger picture, and how much his disciples needed him to leave them.
Because while his disciples meant well, they were still using him as a crutch. This is made evident in how clueless they initially became after he did leave them. They didn’t know how to go on and tried to return to the life of lowly fishermen (John 21:3).
But as we see in the rest of their stories eventually they did reach their full maturity, and they only did it after Jesus’s ascension. They could only became the spiritual giants they were born to be after his departure, and so it truly was for their good that he was going away.

Leading to Water- Ether 3:1, 4, 6

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
And 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, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

COMMENTARY

The brother of Jared went unto the mount and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he cried again unto the Lord, saying: touch these stones with thy finger, that they may shine forth in darkness
Yesterday I examined how the brother of Jared came to the Lord with two problems: the vessels he had been commanded to build had neither light nor air. The Lord addressed the matter of getting air but turned the problem of light back to the brother of Jared.
And I think what the brother of Jared did next was very wise. He worked to make something special, refining rock until it became totally transparent. Surely with God’s omnipotence anything could have been made to glow, even the nearest patch of mud, but the brother of Jared wasn’t so disrespectful as to offer the Lord something like that. Instead he chose to bring the best that he could. He chose to put in personal effort and ingenuity until he could bring something special to the table. Then he asked for help to bring his offering the rest of the way.

And the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord.
The Lord turned the problem over to the brother of Jared and the brother of Jared put in real effort to solve it. It might seem a small thing, but this approach alters the relationship between God and man from being “Master and servant” to “partners.” The brother of Jared had entered a more intimate alliance with God and this was signified by the miracle of seeing his Maker’s finger. This is the sort of relationship that God is seeking with each of us as well.

Leading to Water- Ether 2:18-23

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded.
And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

COMMENTARY

And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe.
The brother of Jared had been commanded to prepare some ships to carry him and his people across the ocean, and he had diligently followed God’s directions for how to fashion them. It appears from the description given that the boats were designed to move only by the ocean’s currents, with no upper deck and sails, and entirely enclosed with the passengers safe inside.
But now that they were complete the brother of Jared was able to identify a few issues with the vessels: there was no light inside and also no opening for air to enter in. As the Lord had given the brother of Jared the schematics for these boats thus far, he naturally came back to God for further guidance on these new issues as well.

And the Lord said: Behold, thou shalt make a hole, and thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole.
And the Lord did, indeed, solve the first of the problems. He instructed Jared to add a sort of hatch to the boat which could be opened when the water was calm and closed when it was tumultuous. Half of the brother of Jared’s prayers had was answered!

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?
But for the second issue, the lack of light, God turned things back to the brother of Jared to come up with a solution. Given the omnipotence of God there’s no question that He could have solved this issue off the cuff as well. But He didn’t, and the only conceivable reason I can think of is because He wanted to teach a lesson.
By this point the brother of Jared had been shown several times that God could solve things. The fact that he came asking God for help in the first place shows that he had confidence in the Lord’s abilities. But God did not want this to remain a relationship of “hey God, can you fix my problem?” That sort of relationship would never result in the brother of Jared fully coming into his own. It was the brother of Jared being carried everywhere instead of learning to walk. God wanted to teach that the brother of Jared to use his own ingenuity first, and then utilize God as a resource for that.

Influence and Persuasion- Summary

I’ve enjoyed doing this study. It’s a topic that I have already pondered on several times in life, and each time it has had new applications for me. First I wondered how to win the loyalty my younger siblings as a child. Then there was serving a mission, where I tried to proselyte the gospel message to others. Next there is my marriage, where my wife and I continually come to terms with our differences. Now I have children of my own, and the desire to teach them the things that matter most. There are also the daily interactions with friends, and the many different ideas and beliefs that we hold. And on top of all that are my efforts to convince my own self to live a higher life.

In all of these situations I want to be a voice for the things that I believe are important, but I do not want to become a tyrant. And even though this is a question I have considered before, there were absolutely new lessons waiting for me as I performed this study. The gospel is a well that can be drawn from many times over.

I am convinced that this topic is one our society as a whole needs to study, too. We will always have different opinions, and there is a lot of good that comes of this, but we need to know how to communicate and persuade in a way that is constructive, not divisive. Hopefully the principles I’ve learned can be useful to all of us.

You Cannot Convince an Enemy or an Inferior

First and foremost, if our intention is to make someone see what is right, we can never succeed. All we will accomplish is to entrench them more firmly in their original beliefs and make them resent us. Neither can we try to manipulate or coerce them into “seeing the light.” Passive-aggressiveness is just as ineffective as harshness.
Even a more academic debate is largely ineffective. There are very few who are going to separate reason from emotion. Thus, even if they see that you are technically right in your specific argument, they will still be convinced that you are wrong overall.
Appeals to authority fall short as well. If you have to explain to your subordinates why they should listen to you, then your actual authority over them is purely imagined. The more strongly you profess your superiority, the more you actively undermine any actual persuasion, because no one wants a tyrant for their mentor.
In short: brute force, invoked authority, and intellectual prowess are the most common ways we use to try and get people to believe and do what we want them to believe and do. Not only are these methods ineffective, they are each immoral in their own way.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:39- We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Moses 1:19- And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

You Can’t Set Another’s Pace

Perhaps the greatest temptation to force another comes from the immediacy of want. We want someone to be a certain way, and we want them to be that way right now. Many of our wants can be immediately satisfied: when we are hungry we get food to eat and when we are tired we put ourselves to sleep. So when we want someone to do something, there is a strong inclination to just make them do it today. But even when done with good intentions, such as a parent that wants to make their child understand the right way to live, this method is ultimately ineffective.
Any behavior that is outwardly enforced will only continue so long as the force is maintained. If we teach others to be good by threats or bribes, then they will depend on those threats and bribes to maintain their virtues. Obviously this is far from the ideal. The ideal is for people to be motivated internally, by a personal desire that requires no external force to continue.
But how do we make that personal desire come alive in another? Quite simply we can’t. It is internal. It is out of our reach. We can love and we can set an example and we can be ready to receive their conversion, but we cannot make that conversion happen. For their transformation to be lasting, it can only occur when when they are ready for it.
Nehemiah 9:30- For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets.
Hosea 3:4-5- For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

A Hope in Human Nature

And this might be a hard reality for us to accept. This seems to be the most unreliable form of influence imaginable. The most hands-off, uncontrollable, indirect way there could be. If we don’t make sure that things work out right, how can we be sure that they ever will? That question, however, only betrays a lack of faith in humanity. We ask it only because we fail to appreciate that if people truly are the children of God, then it is already in their nature to come to Him.
The fundamental desire to be good is already alive in us all. Human beings everywhere naturally seek the light. They do not need to be told that they should go to it, they just need to have it held high and they will make their way over on their own.
So how do we persuade and influence other people? We simply hold aloft our light. We be kind and good. We love them regardless of whether they’re willing to follow our example yet or not. We let them sort things out on their own terms, and know that they will come when they are ready. We prepare ourselves to forgive all their wrongs in the meantime. We keep answers for when they start asking questions. We store up grace and mercy for the day that they are willing to accept it.
And we do this for them because it was what He first did for us.
Matthew 5:16- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Luke 15:20- And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Nehemiah 9:31- But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The Need for Law- Isaiah 51:4-6, 8

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

COMMENTARY

For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.
To understand the need for God’s law, we need to appreciate that we are under another law already: that of mortality. And the final fulfillment of that law is spelled out in total clarity: heaven shall vanish away, earth shall wax old, and all of us that dwell therein shall die. These are the commandments of the earth and they are immutable.
We try to medicate ourselves into longer life, we try to cryogenically freeze our cells, we try to create a legacy to outlive us. We do all of these things to defy the doom of earth’s law, but they are, at best, very temporary solutions. If nothing else gets us, the universe is set for total entropy, which will ultimately unmake any edifice that we try to preserve ourselves in. Whether we live for ten years, a hundred, or find a way to live for a thousand, we will still die.

Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
But my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.
And now, under that context of dark gloom, God gives His divine law as a light, to provide us a hope that was impossible by any worldly means. It offers another outcome, a different destination than the silent grave.
Who can deny the worthiness of this? On these facts alone, it is a law that we should all subscribe to. It honestly wouldn’t matter what its principles and commandments were, we would be fools to not adhere to them. Any cost that it asked would be worth the outcome.

Worthy Vessels- Matthew 5:16, 3 Nephi 18:24

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.

COMMENTARY

Let your light so shine before men
Yesterday I shared how I have seen in myself a desire to become a powerful champion of the gospel, and that I have done so by working on the qualities of persuasion that the world seems to value. Whenever I encounter a religious question, I rack my brain, trying to come up with the “correct” answer. Thus I perceive spiritual discussion as a sort of performance sport, one where I need to be powerful enough to push my theologies more strongly than any others. In all this I have tried to let my light shine…and tragically misunderstood the actual meaning of that scripture.

Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up
Because God is not asking us to pump the crank on our own sixty watt bulb. Frankly that light is insufficient to do anyone any lasting good. Even if I did manage to wrest up a convincing enough argument to satisfy one soul at one time, I would never be able to feed 5,000 this way.
Also, I rather suspect that God has little respect for our worldly debates and arguments, competitions where his children use the guise of “proclaiming the truth” to indulge their own egos.
This is not the shining forth that God ever intended for us to do. He intends for us to hold up His light, He wants us to say His words, He wants us to rely on His intelligence. Not ours. The next time I encounter a religious question I am going to suppress my default instinct to cast around in my intellect for the ‘right answer’ and instead humbly ask Him “what would you say?”

Peace in the Storm- 1 Nephi 8:10-11, 21-24

And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.
And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

COMMENTARY

And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness, insomuch that they did lose their way and were lost.
Storms in nature can be frightening due to the immediate threats of lightning, flooding, and windswept debris. However there is another danger in them, that of pervasive darkness. This blinding can make us lose our bearings and become hopelessly lost. Each one of us experiences these blinding mists in our spiritual lives as well.
And I do mean each of us. Dark clouds are not reserved for the faithless, they fall upon disciples as well. Even if we accept God’s laws we can still struggle with vices; temptations that constantly pull at us, even though we truly want to be good.
Even if we have the hope of Christ in us we can still be overwhelmed by depression; thrust into fear and despair, even though we only want to live in joy.
Even if we fervently believe in God’s goodness we can still wrestle with doubts; moments where we question that the unseen can really be true, even though we only want to remain faithful.
Even Mother Teresa divulged that for a period of fifty years she suffered a feeling of withdrawal from God. She believed in him fiercely, but still the clouds of doubt and depression fell about her.

And caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and did press forward through the mist of darkness, until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
First, one should not be ashamed that the darkness which falls on all has fallen on them, too. After that, one should realize that pressing forward in the dark is progress…even when it does not feel like it. So long as we continue pushing forward, we are nearing our goal. And so when we do at last burst out of that darkness, the light of God’s presence will be far closer than we ever saw it before.

Finding Our Purpose- Summary

Deciding to do this study topic was very easy. I felt like its message was already pervading so many of my other topics, and it was time to give it its due. This message means a great deal to me, I feel that life really begins only when one finds their calling and pursues it.

It’s easy to wish that I had begun my own calling earlier , but I know that I wasn’t ready before. Fulfilling your life purpose will never be a trivial thing. You need to be sorted out and on a firm foundation before you can do it, and getting to that place is always going to take some doing.

In the end it doesn’t matter so much when you arrive, it only matters that you do arrive. Now let’s examine the three core principles that I gleaned from this study.

Everyone Has a Purpose

I expect that my perspectives will evolve and refine over time, but this one I am sure that I will never stray from. I simply refuse to believe that there is anyone in this world who does not have a higher calling to fulfill. If you didn’t have a reason for being here then, simply, you wouldn’t be here. The fact of your existence is the proof of your purpose.
It is easy to be cynical and doubt that life has any higher meaning when we see so many people who do not live one. But just because people do not live a higher purpose does not mean that they do not have one, only that they are not living it. In the scriptures we hear of too many small and simple people becoming powerful emissaries of Christ for me to believe that anyone is too incapable to be an instrument for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:27- But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
Jeremiah 1:5- Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee

Our Purpose Gives Glory

Even those tyrants who commit unspeakable atrocities came to this earth for a divine reason. Many of them were extremely powerful and extremely motivated and they could have been great. It is a terrible tragedy that they lost their way and used their capabilities for evil instead.
We all live in the midst of a battle of shifting luminance. We either add a light to this world, or else we plunge it deeper into darkness. God knows that there is more than enough of the darkness. If you still have any lingering doubts about whether you have a purpose, just ask yourself “could this world use a little more light or not?”
There will never be a time that we don’t need you to add your spark. It will always be better to add your glimmer, no matter how small you think it is. And if we wish to illuminate the world, all we have to do is let the light God put into us shine out. When we live the purpose He planted in our heart, then we are doing our part to brighten all the world.
Matthew 5:16- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
1 Corinthians 12:26- And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

We All Need Help to Fulfill Our Purpose

Now sometimes we do want to make the world a brighter place, but then we feel that we are blocked. As I suggested up above, living out one’s purpose first requires being straightened out inside. If one is living in guilt, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living in suffering, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living incomplete, one cannot live their purpose.
There is no shame in admitting that we need help to do the things we are supposed to do. I believe many of us get confused on this point. If our calling is ours to live, doesn’t that mean we should be able to handle it all on our own? The surprising answer is no.
Because God does not give us a life to live. He gives us a life to live with Him. Therefore it is impossible to live the life that God intended for us alone, no one ever has. God’s purposes are beyond us, and they can only be attained by His miracles.
So if you have the desire to live your fullest life, but the inability to act on that desire, then the only question is whether you will seek the deliverance that you need. You know what healing to pray for, what resources to ask for, what lifting to plead for. Let go of any pride and humbly accept God’s help. It’s time for the two of you to start doing things together.
Exodus 4:11-12- And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

John 15:16- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Justice and Mercy- John 1:9, Romans 2:14-15, Alma 42:17-18

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.

Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

COMMENTARY

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world
The law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness
To each of us is given a light, or in other words a conscience. When any of us do something that is wrong it pricks at our conscience.
Though we vary in some of our moral beliefs, it is universal to feel bad about stealing, lying, and killing. By our very nature we also know that it is wrong to make someone else feel bad, to make a vow and then break it. It feels wrong even to silently think ill of another, or to speak poorly of them behind their back. Mistreatment of our own selves feels wrong as well.
In short all of us have at least one “law written in [our] hearts,” a law of nature. It guides us from harm and leads towards fulfillment, and is therefore a wonderful blessing to us. And it is a blessing that is given freely to us all.

Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man
However the blessing of the law only applies so long as we adhere to its principles. If not, then justice demands that we suffer the consequences of our transgression. The very first of these consequences is a “remorse of conscience,” and other penalties may follow depending on the severity of the crime. Thus even those that have not received the higher law of the gospel are still responsible for how well they adhere to the law of their own conscience, and the demands of justice are felt by us all.