Sunday, April 25, 2021

Given to believe


There are many people of faith who claim to know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that various other beliefs are true. Among Latter-day Saints in particular, it is very common to speak in terms of relative certainty when sharing one's testimony (e.g. "I know the Church is true, etc."). What do we mean when we say we know these things? If we have never seen a pillar of light or a burning bush, is it dishonest to claim to "know"? What about those of us who "believe" they are true, but don't feel certain enough to say that we know them? Does that make our testimony weak and unreliable?

First of all, we should not judge one another based on differences in how we express something so personal as our testimonies and religious beliefs. Whether one chooses to say that they "know" or "believe", the important thing is that their testimony is sincere. That is the kind of testimony that angels rejoice over, regardless of the terminology used.

In addition, even if one doesn't have absolute certainty of their religious beliefs, there are still things that they can know with confidence. We can know that they have brought peace and clarity to our lives. We can know they have inspired us to love more and live better. We can know that they bring us hope and happiness. Though we may not have a perfect knowledge of all things, we can have knowledge of these specific things (see Alma 32:28-34).

Finally, God explains that He has given spiritual gifts to all of His children, and He doesn't always give the same gift to everyone. Among those gifts mentioned in D&C 46, we clearly see that the gift of "knowing" that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the gift of "believing" the words of those who know are two distinct gifts. Those of us who have been given the gift of believing may desire to one day have true knowledge, and that is not a bad desire to have. But for some, that desire may not be fulfilled until after this life, when we at last enter the presence of God and see Him face to face. Should that be God's will for us, we can express gratitude for the portion of light and knowledge that He has given us. We can nurture that precious belief, and seek to increase and refine our understanding through study and prayer. We can continue to act in faith, even when we don't have absolute certainty. And we can remember, that to simply "believe" is not a curse. It is a gift.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Cast on the right


After Christ was risen, His disciples were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. They had toiled all night and caught nothing. That morning they heard someone calling out to them, inquiring whether they had caught anything. After reporting that they had not, the stranger told them to cast their nets on the right side of the ship. They did so, and caught so many fish they couldn't hold them all. They then recognized that the One who had told them to cast on the right side was none other than Jesus Himself. (See St. John 26.)

Perhaps the fishermen thought the advice was silly. They had been casting their nets all night to no avail. What difference would it make to cast them one more time on the other side of the ship? But as soon as they did, they had success. What difference did it make? The difference was they did the same thing they were doing, but they did it the Lord's way.

So much of Christ's ministry was spent instructing and demonstrating to His followers how to do things the right way: the right way to teach, the right way to serve, the right way to worship, the right way to seek reconciliation, the right way to treat others. There are, of course, many things the Lord taught us not to do. But it is often the case that rather than stopping what we are doing altogether, we simply need to do it another way: the right way. His way.

The beauty of doing things the Lord's way is that it multiplies rather than limits our efforts. For example, Christ taught that those in positions of authority should be humble and seek to serve rather than to be served. That doesn't mean they can't teach or correct those under their stewardship. Rather, it means that teaching and correction should be done with love and genuine regard for those they lead and serve. And by showing that love and regard, they will be more likely to win their loyalty, which will in turn enhance their ability to lead.

There are many other potential applications as well. When our worthy goals aren't being met with success, it may be worth examining our methods, and considering if we are indeed doing things the Lord's way. A simple change in our approach may be all that we need.