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Friday, January 24, 2014

Our Point of Reference

In order to properly measure an object's distance or speed, there needs to exist a point of reference, a point that orients the one measuring. For example, to measure the speed of a car the person holding the radar gun must be off to the side of the road, in a static position. If the person who was holding the radar gun was driving side by side at the same speed as the other car, it would appear on the radar gun that the car was driving zero miles per hour, but the sign out there would be moving at about 75 miles per hour. Let me use another example. When we sit in a car and depart from our house, it appears the house is getting further away. The best way we can see what is truly happening is if we aren't in any of the two points being measured. If the point of reference is in a field, which is next to the house, then we can clearly measure that the car is the point moving away from the other point, which is the house. The observation of the necessity of a point of reference is the same when we describe our relationship with God.

As we read in the scriptures, we will see God is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13: 8; see also 2 Nephi 27: 23, D&C 20: 12). This means that God and His morality does not move or change. He is in one spot. Just as a mountain is immovable, God is more.

God is more immovable than this mountain
This information is necessary to understand while we study His words. God is our Loving Heavenly Father. He wants what is best for us. He wants us to learn and to grow. Therefore, when He speaks to us, He "speaketh unto men according to... their understanding." (2 Nephi 31: 3) This is the strategy of an excellent teacher. President John Taylor said, "It is true intelligence for a man to take a subject that is mysterious and great in itself, and to unfold it and simplify it so that a child can understand it." This is one reason why children can surprise us with questions and comments pertaining to spiritual truths, but that is a different post. Yet, we must not overlook the fact that we, ourselves, are children of the Most High. When He teaches us, He comes to our understanding, rather than having us go to His. When can see this same thing occur with us, when we teach people (children, novices, new employees, etc...) what we know. But, this life is a journey to get back to our Father. So, to describe the condescension of God, I will liken our journey to another journey:

There were two friends (we shall call then Jon and Spencer), who had met in school. They grew up together. They had all the same interests and hobbies. Friends like this are difficult to separate, but they must go back home at the end of each day. Whenever they got the chance, they would hang out at home. That home was always Jon's. Then, on Jon's sixteenth birthday, he got a truck, and the privilege of driving. He wanted to go to Spencer's house to play on Spencer's xbox, for a change. Then, he was off. But, he had never been to Spencer's house before. On his journey, he called Spencer to ask for directions. Spencer asked, "where are you now? Describe what you see around you." After Jon told him, Spencer was able to give turn by turn directions to guide Jon to his home, as if he had been in the truck with Jon seeing everything Jon was seeing. 

If Jon was getting directions from the point of reference from Spencer, rather than himself, it would be a little more difficult to navigate. This is how God guides us on our journey. This thought occurred to me while I was studying in the Book of Mosiah, which is in the Book of Mormon. There was a scripture written just a little differently than other scriptures that conveyed the same message. King Benjamin was delivering his famous sermon from the temple when he said, "if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord..." (Mosiah 2: 36; emphasis added) Most of the other scriptures dealing with us and the Spirit of the Lord say the Spirit of the Lord withdraws from us. For example, the Doctrine and Covenants says, "when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness... the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and... is withdrawn" (D&C 121: 37) Yet, Mosiah 2: 36 says the vice versa. 

Just as Spencer used the cell phone to communicate with Jon to guide him, God uses prophets to guide us to Him. God speaks to us at our level. He uses us as the point by which the distance is oriented.
King Benjamin acted as the point outside the two points being measured. Hence, why he said what He did. The Spirit of the Lord does not withdraw from us, rather we withdraw from Him through our actions. Brad Wilcox noted this when he was talking about people who don't want to change. "They are not trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God. Rather, they are trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin." ("His Grace is Sufficient") So, we must learn to abandon sin to grow comfortable with God. We do that first by repenting. Yet, baby steps are necessary. Begin your day by a simple prayer. It does not need to be a verbal prayer, but that would be nice. It does not need to be an elaborate prayer. Talk to God the same way you would a dear friend or family member. If you forget in the morning, but remember later on in the day, pray then. That simple communication will give you strength to do more repenting, and the distance between you and the Lord will shrink. You will feel the Spirit of the Lord entering you as you do so, and the power of heaven will open the eyes of your understanding. 

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