Is there a more slippery foundational concept in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than one that focuses on being led by spirit, one that relies on inspiration and revelation of divinity?
The idea that humans can and do get whispers directly from God, not only for themselves but also for others, is a…. hard to nail just right.
Reliable, however, it is.
It can work well, at best, but it can also degenerate into a distortion, a bastardy, a ruse of religion, at worst.
As a believer, I have seen inspiration bless the lives of everyone involved. Yet that aforementioned bastardy does happen. There are Latter-day Saints, and probably many followers of other religions, who use supposed communication with God as a means of accomplishing their own will, as a weapon of control.
Let’s come back here and get a good start at this foundation of Latter-day Saint belief. It is a long-standing principle that individuals can talk to heaven. They can pray to God and receive specific answers to specific questions regarding important – and even not so important – issues affecting their lives.
Members are encouraged to pray, pray, pray, if they need direction. And stories are told and heard of individuals who don’t know what job to take or what school to attend, what subject to study, what suitor to marry, which suitor not to marry, which dog to buy, which friends to make, which road to take, which bake cake, what cage to shake, and their impressions come.
Inspiration stories vary widely, from people deciding how many children to conceive, which neighborhood to move to, and where to find their lost car keys. Whether God actually takes the time to instruct in such detail, or if He cares at all, as children in Africa starve and homes are destroyed in war zones, it is up to each individual to decide.
Either way, reliance on this core belief is found throughout the faith, its practices at all levels, and the way it is directed, directed, and structured.
‘Called’ to serve
Whenever people are “called” to a congregational role by church leaders, as lay clergy of the faith, they are said to be chosen via the spirit, via revelation sprinkled upon those who make the call. This inspiration is used when a stake president (a regional leader) calls someone to be a bishop, or a bishop calls someone to be a deacons quorum president, or a deacons quorum president calls someone to become a counselor or secretary.
This inspiration is dependent on the whole church, from top to bottom, from the prophet and apostles to choir leaders and hymnbook coordinators. It is done through this distillation of information from the heavens above into the minds and hearts of anyone who is empowered to fill vacancies in Sunday Schools and Primary and Relief Societies and Youth Programs .
It can be tricky business on this earthly orb to understand the wishes of God.
Missionaries sometimes say they are guided to a certain neighborhood, a specific house, a particular family or individual as they seek out and contact strangers to teach. Especially when they hit the dirt, because those strangers become converts.
A missionary I knew in Germany long ago said that she and her companion were directed to go to a specific street at a specific time in a major city. When they arrived there, they encountered a lonely, dignified woman standing on a sidewalk who happened to be visiting family members in the former West Germany for a few days from her home in Germany. former East Germany, then under the communist regime.
They gave her a Book of Mormon, spoke with her for about an hour, and then over the next few weeks sent her more information. She prayed for what she received, believed it all, eagerly converted to the faith, quietly taught the rest of her family and they joined her too.
Was it a communication from above or a coincidence? Both the missionary and the new member were convinced it was the old one.
Congregations have heard a thousand stories of such occurrences, how in some cases a certain thought or name enters the consciousness of a church leader as he prays and reflects, as part of his stewardship, considerations on the table, about who to call at what station.
Like just about any human endeavor, sometimes decisions are made, calls are extended, and they’re perfect, just for the money. And sometimes decisions are made, calls are extended, and they are off-target enough to be considered wrong.
Does it mean that God was dispensing incorrect information or the receivers were making moves, guessing the answers, who should do what, or picking from a select group of friends, or reaching out blindly, pointing to it as inspiration and calling him good?
This is an important question. A fundamental question. A question whose answer can swing in all directions.
And obviously, church callings, some of which require a tremendous amount of time and effort on the part of the people who are asked to fill the roles, affect the people called more than they affect the one making the call. call.
Again, all by way of presumed inspiration.
Pious wish or divine thought?
If you want to trust that, when it comes to individual decisions, that’s often all well and good, but when it extends to the lives of others, that’s where it can be somewhere between risky and dangerous.
Everyone has heard the anecdotal story of the young man who informs a potential wife that he sent a prayer to God and was told that she was the only one for him. He is certain of it. But she received no such revelation. In fact, she not only thinks he’s not the best choice for her, but also that he’s a bit of a dork and a doorknob. Yet the dweeb, the doorknob insists he is spirit driven.
What is that? Divine dissonance?
What about the cases where a woman and a man agree that they are inspired to marry, and two years later they are divorced and hate each other, realizing after the fact that they have made a horrible mistake?
Lots of lip-to-cup slippage on the reveal.
Ultimately, it’s up to each individual to understand what comes from the Omnipotent and what comes from… well, someone, somewhere else.
A good rule of thumb is to trust your own feelings on every topic. What message and what manna from heaven falls into your mind and your mouth? Are they aligned with your core beliefs? Do they match what you believe to be true, based on your life experiences or, if you are the type, your study of the scriptures?
Surrendering control of the piloting of your own life in matters of spirituality and service, great or small, is the ultimate expression of faith, but only if it is gracious and good, precise and pleasant, considerate and consistent with compassion.
And just like all forms of divine communication and the search for truth, the search for forgiveness, understanding, guidance and inspiration of any kind is primarily between you and You-Know-Who, the Almighty, the Author of Everything.
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