One of our favorite pass times on our days off from our mission responsibilities is to go geocaching. I love that this international treasure hunt game so often leads us to gorgeous hiking trails we would have found no other way.
Sometimes we find the hidden container we are seeking. Sometimes we don't. Either way, we both appreciate getting out for a good walk and enjoying the beauty.
There have been a few geo hides that we have gone back to three or four times trying to locate. Sometimes we tough it out on our own, and sometimes we ask for help
Recently we found one on a trail not far from our daily walk home from work that originally stumped us. (Yes, pun intended, because it was at the site of a BIG stump!)
We looked ALL over the place, but could not find a thing. So I finally broke down and emailed the "owner" of the cache, the person who had originally hidden it. He answer back right away giving very specific directions for where we should look and what we would be looking for.
I have to admit, at first I was disappointed. I had wanted a CLUE to help me figure it out or some general "look higher" or "look lower" sort of guidelines so that I'd have a better chance, but still wanted to feel like I had been able to accomplish it through my own skill.
However, when we actually DID find the hide, I recognized there was simply no way we ever would have found it on our own. The thing was a very small glass tube that had been put inside a hole drilled into a branch and then layed down in a crevice of the tree. It simply looked like a natural part of the surrounding area so even my my most clever searching would not have recognized it. I needed help to find the prize. But my prideful heart wanted to do it more on my own.
As we prepare for church tomorrow, I've been thinking about this in terms of how I approach the atonement.
No matter how obedient I try to be, no matter how righteous my intentions are, I will always fall short of God's plan for me.
Like everyone else living in this fallen mortal world, I make mistakes, plenty of them. Some of my mistakes are because I have not yet gained full understanding. Some are from outright rebelliousness. Some will be sins of commission, the wrong things I do which I know good and well that I should not do. Other times they will be sins of omission - not doing anything terrible, but failing to do the righteous thing I know that I should do.
Some sins will be based on ignorance, others on spiritual immaturity. Some come down to basic laziness, pride, greed or other petty human frailties. On my own, no matter how hard I may want to do the right thing, there are going to be times that I fail.
However, our loving Heavenly Father gave us a way to get back on the path through repentance, and by relying on the eternal gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
When I cannot find my way spiritually, I need to turn to Him.
Sometime I have tried to obey my way into God's good graces. I've tried to earn worthiness by diligently doing everything I can to "get it right". And that is a tricky thing, because I SHOULD be obedient, and I SHOULD do all I can to be worthy. But I always have to recognize that I simply cannot make it on my own. I need the help of the atonement. So I'm trying to learn to understand that better and to rely on it more fully.
Beyond that, just in my every day life there are times I need to make decisions that can have high stakes as to the outcome. One of my challenges is to know when it is appropriate for me to try harder to "study it out in my mind" and figure it out using my own ability and agency or when I should seek answers from the Lord through inspiration / personal revelation about what I should do.
When do I tough it out on my own, and when do I ask for help?
In 1973 Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a member of the Quorum of 12 Apostles, the general authorities who help guide and direct LDS people throughout the world, gave an address at BYU in which he said: "...we're faced with two propositions. One is that we ought to be guided by the spirit of inspiration, the spirit of revelation. The other is that we're here under a direction to use our agency, to determine what we ought to do on our own; and we need to strike a fine balance between these two, if we're going to pursue a course that will give us joy and satisfaction and peace in this life and lead to eternal reward in our Father's kingdom."
In that talk Elder McConkie gave some good examples to illustrate the importance of not expecting Heavenly Father to just hand out solutions because we might ask for them.
The first was the case of Oliver Cowdry, friend and scribe to the prophet Joseph Smith. While Oliver was very faithful in recording the words from the gold plates which were to become the Book of Mormon while the prophet read them under direction from Heavenly Father, Oliver really wanted a chance to do more. He wanted to experience translating for himself. So he had the prophet ask God in prayer if that was a possibility. The answer he got back was "The Lord said, "Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive."
This sounded like a Green Light to Oliver. Trusting those words to mean just what they sounded like, Oliver asked God to let him take a turn at translation. However, it didn't work. When Oliver tried, he could see the marking on the Gold Plates, but nothing came to his mind for what those words would mean in English. His mind remained closed.
So what's up with that?
When Oliver had the prophet go back to the Lord again in prayer to ask why he (Oliver) could not translate as asked, the response was this:
"You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me" (D&C 9:7).
Explaining this, Elder McConkie said:
"Now, seemingly, that's all he'd been instructed to do, to ask in faith; but implicit in asking in faith is the precedent requirement that we do everything in our power to accomplish the goal that we seek. We use the agency with which we have been endowed. We use every faculty and capacity and ability that we possess to bring about the eventuality that may be involved. Now this is translating the Book of Mormon, it's choosing a wife, it's choosing employment, it's doing any one of ten thousand important things that arise in our lives." (emphasis added).
The Lord went on to reveal:
"I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." [D&C 9:8–9]
The second example Elder McConkie gives has to do with the brother of Jared (also known from revelation as Moriancumer) when he wanted to know how he might have light in the ships he had been directed to build to take his people across a vast ocean into the promised land. His first concern had been how to have fresh air in the ships since they would have to be sealed up tight "like a dish" to preserve the people when the ships would be "buried in the water". The brother of Jared asked the Lord what to do about that and was given a direct answer that solved that concern.
So when his next issue came up, he tried the same thing. He wanted to know how they could have light to help them through their journey, so he simply asked.
This is what Elder McConkie said about that:
And the Lord talked to him about it a little and then he said this: "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" (Eth. 2:23). In effect, "What are you asking me for? This is something you should have solved." And he talked a little more, and he repeated in essence the question: "What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?" (Eth. 2:25). In other words, "Moriancumer, this is your problem. Why are you troubling me? I've given you your agency; you are endowed with capacity and ability. Get out and solve the problem."
The brother of Jared then found a solution on his own that he felt would be workable. He then took that solution to the Lord and asked for the Lord's approval of the plan. Through his absolute faith that God could and would give him the light he needed according to this plan, the brother of Jared was allowed to see God face to face, and the light was provided.
The last example given in Elder McConkie's address comes from the early history of the church. The Lord directs the group of Saints in that time to come together and hold councils. He does not tell them when, where or how to do that. He just tells them it will be important. That direction is followed up with this:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. [D&C 58:26–29]
So from all this I have come to understand that in many cases, I really SHOULD try to figure things out on my own. That's how I learn and grow.
But it is just as true that I need to know when to humble myself to admit that I don't have the answers. I need to be more willing to ask for help. That can be true in many areas of my life - whether it be geocaching or getting directions on how to get somewhere rather than wander around lost.
It is most definitely true in the spiritual sense. There will be plenty of times that even when I have put forth my very best effort, I need to ask for help. That's why the Lord said in Ether 12: 27
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them”.