I became a huge fan of a man I’d never met before.
He came into our lives as a counselor in the Lubbock Temple presidency. He exuded Christlike love. I enjoyed being around him. But even more than that, I loved his mind.
One Sunday, our bishopric asked him to come talk to us during Sunday School. It seemed like the topic was whatever he wanted to cover. He covered a wide basis of teaching from Joseph Smith and the Pearl of Great Price, but then with perfect intensity, he honed in on Facsimiles 1-3.
Let it be noted that I have always been a curious seeker. I’d also had an Egyptian papyrus version of Facsimile 2 hanging on my wall since 1991 when I went to Egypt. I was too poor then to complete the collection, but have since. I’d read the Facsimiles every time I read the standard works. Sometime I read them because they were more interesting than whatever class I was in.
That humble servant stood at the pulpit during Gospel Doctrine and commanded us to learn about the Facsimiles. The force that his words hit me with took my breath away. I still remember where I sat. And I remember feeling like “If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be” and “…will be given in the own due time of the Lord” had actually manifested in my life time and I needed to search, read, ponder, and pray.
I didn’t have any idea where to start my search. But it didn’t take long to find reputable scholars I trusted to help me along my journey. My excitement and knowledge base continues to grow to this day from that admonition to WAKE UP and SEEK. I’m so grateful for that talk.
Praying For Personal Questions
Even though I was married at the time, I decided to attend his lunchtime devotional to the Young Single Adults at the institute building. I actually can’t remember his devotional subject. But one of his remarks in answer to a question changed the way I answered questions about questions forever.
Someone expressed concern over asking the Lord inappropriate questions. Just how do you know what an inappropriate question is?
Instead of really answering the question directly, he just shared that in his personal study of the Book of Mormon, while reading in 3 Nephi about the three disciples who requested translation of Jesus, he came across Mormon’s comment.
Behold, I was about to write the names of those who were never to taste of death, but the Lord forbade; therefore I write them not, for they are hid from the world.
He felt a real desire to know who those names were. Mormon gives a list of all 12 disciples, so the names are available, just not delineated. He said he prayed and asked the Lord to know which disciples made that request.
He asked, “Was knowing those names crucial to my salvation? Not at all. But the Lord answered my question.”
Afraid to Ask?
Recently, I had a chance to chat with a woman I love and admire about life mission and purpose. It seems like at some point everyone deals with the question of am I fulfilling a meaningful life purpose?
She made a fantastic point that we generally perpetually wonder and worry and try to “figure everything out.” But for some reason, we fail to just ask God to give direction. If anyone knew our life purposes, it would be Him!
We decided that maybe people are afraid to receive that revelation. Maybe the comfort zone of frustration and the unknown is actually easier to handle that any potentially hard or scary task the Lord has in mind for us.
Ask, Seek, Knock
I personally don’t worry about what questions to ask or not ask God. If it’s something I’m not ready to receive yet, I don’t receive an answer. But I’ve never felt God shaming me for asking.
I have a lot of things on my unanswered prayer shelf that I look forward to receiving answers about in the future. I know the answered prayer shelf is viable, because I receive answers to previously asked questions all the time—when I’m ready to receive them.
I’ve been more worried about not asking questions at all.
This scripture always spurs me on.
Scriptural context discusses the revelation to know that you’re sealed up to exaltation. The scriptures are the pathway for that. But personally, I need the Holy Ghost to direct me on that path. And He does that, primarily, as I ask questions.
He has directed me by teaching me through the most mundane aspects of life. I learned about impact of life purpose and the Lost 10 Tribes on different occasions while watching butterflies.
Alma slammed Korihor’s heretical logic by testifying that
all things denote there is a God.
I’ve always taken that very literally. I see and learn from patterns. As I observe and ask, I learn about God.
I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
Ask Not Amiss
There is a time when it’s inappropriate to ask. The scriptures call it “ask not amiss.” James clearly identifies what asking amiss entails.
THAT is the only caveat about asking I find in the scriptures. Revelatory truth is not revealed to satisfy pride, ego, envy, wickedness, whatever our lusts are.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
What’s my intention in praying and asking? To me, that’s much more critical to evaluate than what I’m actually asking.
The other thing that seems to limits people’s answers is their belief that God will not answer specific questions. That’s a very valid belief, because if you believe God will not answer you, then He cannot.
My Tradition Is to Know
Not everyone grew up in an open environment encouraging them to seek, ask, know. I think it’s great to challenge our “traditions” all the time. Is it true, good, leading to God? Great. Does it cause doubt, darkness, fear to approach Him? Time to reevaluate.
I grew up in a home where my parents asked us what our questions were, essentially expecting us to have Gospel questions about any aspect of the Gospel. That bred confidence in pondering and asking.
But I gained an even greater, more intense tradition to ask, seek, knock when I received my patriarchal blessing at age 14. At least 3/4 of my blessing was about seeking knowledge. Here are some phrase snippets that continued and emphasized my family tradition of believing and then knowing that God will answer any prayer when I approach Him in faith.
I’ve read it hundreds/thousands of times. These phrases are ingrained in my DNA. I believe them.
study, ponder, see
be valiant, apply yourself, learn, be blessed
prayer, study, the Lord will bless you
go forward, know
study, apply yourself, learn all you can, glory of intelligence is pleasing unto your Heavenly Father and He’s given you these opportunities that you might learn all things.
accept truth, compare to Gospel, know
need not have doubts and fears, you will know
pause, reflect, listen, answers will come
knowledge will be a testimony to you of the truth of the Gospel and the goodness of your Heavenly Father
you will know concerning coming of the Lord
your knowledge strengthen, expand, there is no reason that you cannot know these things
the more you know the stronger your testimony
go forward in joy in your knowledge and understanding
burning in heart these things are right
know beginnings from the end
know what you ought to do
true, faithful, whisperings, promptings, Lord will bless
I feel fully commanded to study, think, ponder, ask, receive, and know. Never is there a caveat to sincerely asking. And I believe Him.
Lack Wisdom? Ask a God Who Gives Liberally and Upbraids Not
A couple of chapters before the “ask not amiss” verse, James just sets it out.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
There’s no caveat in what that wisdom entails. God gives liberally and doesn’t punish you for asking “stupid” questions. Because, technically, if we’re asking the Omniscient Creator of the universe a question about Himself or His creations, all of our finite minded questions will be horribly uninformed and stupid.
The scriptures are full of people who asked and received—Nephi to Hannah to Joseph Smith to Moses to Alma to Abraham to Enoch to Solomon. They shared visions and revelations and curiosities of Gospel plans, the earth, the solar system, time, life, subsistence, survival, the nature of God, if someone was translated, about their calling and purpose. The Lord revealed all of it.
Solomon wrote, for the rest of us,
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
Joseph Smith sought and asked. He recorded his experience and the Lord also emphasized the opportunity in the same section.
But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion….
Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
Concerning ALL THINGS. That is the most beautiful promise ever. He gives us the Way to know and wants to reveal Himself when we’re ready.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the Lord.