Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decisions, Revelation, and Self-Reliance

Some counsel from Boyd K. Packer. The entire talk is here.
When you have a problem, work it out in your own mind first. Ponder on it and analyze it and meditate on it. Read the scriptures. Pray about it. I’ve come to learn that major decisions can’t be forced. You must look ahead and have vision. What was it the prophet said in the Old Testament? “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Prov. 29:18.)

Ponder on things a little each day and don’t always be in the crisis of making major decisions on the spur of the moment. If you’re looking ahead in life, you can see major problems coming down the road toward you from some considerable distance. By the time you meet one another, you are able at the very beginning to take charge of the conversation. Once in a while a major decision will jump out at you from the side of the road and startle the wits out of you, but not very often. If you’ve already decided that you’re going to do what is right and let all of the consequences follow, even those encounters won’t hurt you.
I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Your mind is then fresh and alert. The blackboard of your mind has been erased by a good night’s rest. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in your way. Your body has been rested also. That’s the time to think something through very carefully and to receive personal revelation.
I’ve heard President Harold B. Lee begin many a statement about matters involving revelation with an expression something like this: “In the early hours of the morning, while I was pondering upon that subject,” and so on. He made it a practice to work on the problems that required revelation in the fresh, alert hours of the early morning.
The Lord knew something when He directed in the Doctrine and Covenants,
“Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:124.)
I have a friend who bought a business. A short time later he suffered catastrophic reverses. There just didn’t seem to be any way out for him, and finally it got so bad that he couldn’t sleep. So, for a period of time he followed the practice of getting up about three o’clock in the morning and going to the office. There, with a paper and a pen he would ponder and pray and write down every idea that came to him as a possible solution or a contribution to the solution of his problem. It wasn’t long before he had several possible directions that he could go, and it was not much longer than that until he had chosen the best of them. But he had earned an extra bonus. His notes showed, after going over them, that he had discovered many hidden resources that he had never noticed before. He came away more independent and successful than ever he would have been if he hadn’t suffered those reverses.
There’s a lesson in that. A year or two later he was called to preside over a mission in one of the foreign lands. His business was so independent and well set-up that when he came back he didn’t return to it. He just has someone else managing it, and he is able to give virtually all of his time now to the blessing of others.
I counsel our children to do their critical studying in the early hours of the morning when they’re fresh and alert, rather than to fight physical weariness and mental exhaustion at night. I’ve learned that the dictum, “Early to bed, early to rise” is powerful. When under pressure—for instance, when I was preparing this talk—you wouldn’t find me burning the midnight oil. Much rather I’d be early to bed and getting up in the wee hours of the morning, when I could be close to Him who guides this work.
Now, about revelation. We have all been taught that revelation is available to each of us individually. The question I’m most often asked about revelation is, “How do I know when I have received it? I’ve prayed about it and fasted over this problem and prayed about it and prayed about it, and I still don’t quite know what to do. How can I really tell whether I’m being inspired so I won’t make a mistake?”
First, do you go to the Lord with a problem and ask Him to make your decision for you? Or do you work, read the revelations, and meditate and pray and then make a decision yourself? Measure the problem against what you know to be right and wrong, and then make the decision. Then ask Him if the decision is right or if it is wrong. Remember what He said to Oliver Cowdery about working it out in your mind.
Listen to this sentence if you don’t hear anything else: If we foolishly ask our bishop or branch president or the Lord to make a decision for us, there’s precious little self-reliance in that. Think what it costs every time you have somebody else make a decision for you.
On occasions I’ve had to counsel people that the Lord would probably quite willingly approve the thing they intend to do even when they want to. It’s strange when they come and almost feel guilty about doing something because they want to, even when it’s righteous. The Lord is very generous with the freedom He gives us. The more we learn to follow the right, the more we are spiritually self-reliant, the more our freedom and our independence are affirmed. “If ye continue in my word,” he said, “then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32.)
There is great meaning in these words from Carol Lynn Pearson, entitled, “The Lesson”:
Yes, my fretting,
Frowning child,
I could cross
The room to you
More easily.
But I’ve already
Learned to walk,
So I make you
Come to me.
Let go now—
You see?
Oh, remember
This simple lesson,
And when
In later years
You cry out
With tight fists
And tears—
“Oh, help me,
Just listen
And you’ll hear
A silent voice:
“I would, child,
I would.
But it’s you,
Not I,
Who needs to try
(Carol Lynn Pearson, Beginnings, Provo: Trilogy Arts, 1967, p. 18.)
Laman and Lemuel complained to Nephi, “Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken.”
“Have ye inquired of the Lord?” Nephi asked them.
And think of this answer. They said to him, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known to us.”
“How is it,” he answered, “that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts? Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (See 1 Ne. 15:7–11.)
In conclusion, if we lose the spirit and power of individual revelation, we have lost much in this Church. You have great and powerful resources. You, through prayer, can solve your problems without endlessly going to those who are trying so hard to help others.
Now, if you start receiving revelations for anyone else’s jurisdiction, you know immediately that you’re out of order, that they come from the wrong source. You will not receive revelation to counsel your bishop or to correct the leaders of the Church.
If you become so dependent and insecure about prayer and the answer to prayer that you are hesitant on them, then you are weak.
This Church relies on individual testimony. Each must earn his own testimony. It is then that you can stand and say, as I can say, that I know that God lives, that He is our Father, that we have a child-parent relationship with Him. I know that He is close, that we can go to Him and appeal, and then, if we will be obedient and listen and use every resource, we will have an answer to our prayers.
I love when he says, "Think what it costs every time you have someone make a decision for you." I never thought of it that way, but the whole point of life is for us to learn to exercise our agency in righteousness. We lose spiritual vitality when we turn that job over to someone else.
And anyone who knows me knows I need that counsel about sleep =).

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