This is the unprecedented season of the worldwide pandemic. We will remember it the rest of our lives. The current consequences have changed much of our daily and weekly routines. We’ve all become familiar with, and even expert in, social distancing. The virus has created significant health and economic challenges. Depending on where you live, your age and your circumstances, you are experiencing the pandemic in a unique and personal way. And, although the infection curve may have been flattened, the economic issues will be very long lasting.
This is also the season to “hear Him.” President Russell M. Nelson has said, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.” (President Russell M. Nelson Invites All to “Hear Him”, Church News April 5, 2020)
Over the past 6 months I have studied the various accounts of the First Vision. As part of this effort, a particular verse of scripture has jumped off the pages of the Bible like never before. I’m referring to the line of scripture that follows James 1:5, which is the verse that catalyzed Joseph to offer his prayer in what we now refer to as the Sacred Grove, and led to the First Vision.
James 1:5 says, “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.”
Of this verse, Joseph wrote, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.” (Joseph Smith - History 1:12)
My personal epiphany came as I studied the words found in the very next verse -- James 1:6 --which says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering….”
When we ask of God – when we pray with full purpose of heart – we always ask in faith. But this faith can have no wiggle room -- there can be no wavering.
What does it mean to waver? It means to become unsteady. It means to have doubt – in God’s power to hear and answer prayers. Not a lot of doubt, but maybe just a little doubt.
In James 1:6 we are taught an essential principle for human interaction with the Divine. When we seek heavenly help, through prayer, fasting, or putting one’s “shoulder to the wheel”, the effort should be made with complete faith and trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. There can be no wavering – else the natural man and natural women will sneak into our heads and hearts and confuse us with doubt, uncertainty and fear. And if this method fails to confound us, then we’ll be attacked with pride, skepticism, and even enmity towards God and our fellowman.
And the lesson and principle is of great importance – we must yield our will to God, else we will be unable to avail ourselves of the powers of heaven. The Savior himself taught this lesson in Gethsemane, when the contents of the cup from which he was assigned to drink became undrinkable. He said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
If we truly want inspiration and guidance, then we must align our will with that of Heavenly Father. This requires willing submission and repentance, and sacrificing of those worldly things that now define our character and habits. Of this, Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) said, “The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give' are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.” (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father” Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign November 1995)
If we want to “hear Him”, then we must practice social distancing from the secular germs and viruses of the natural man that so easily beset us. Shall we stay two meters away from people, media (of all kinds) and environments that degrade and defile the goodness of God? And can we metaphorically cover our eyes and ears so that we neither see nor hear the filth that spews from the secular world’s discordant choirs?
To create a life that doesn’t waver, one begins with a strong, immoveable foundation of faith. The building blocks for this kind of faith include vibrant belief in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and their Plan for Mankind as taught throughout our restoration scriptures. And then one takes this belief and adds an impenetrable layer of trust – trusting in God and His timing. Trusting that Christ has “descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth,” (D&C 88:6-7). With this investment in faith and trust, we gain spiritual knowledge that both God the Father and Jesus Christ have “all power.” And, through our study of the Plan of Salvation, we gain great insight into the purpose of life, and the reasons for the many tests, trials and temptations that come throughout our lives.
This is the foundation of faith that President Henry B. Eyring is referring to when he teaches, “If the foundation of faith is not embedded in our hearts, the power to endure will crumble.” (“A Focus on Faith”, Henry B. Eyring, New Era, May 2012) The world in which we live is designed to test us to the point of crumbling – unless we have developed a firm foundation of faith.
“For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Thus, we turn to the Lord, and often re-turn to the Lord, in both word and deed. This becomes our chosen pattern of daily living – one that requires self-discipline and commitment, generously supported by life-changing covenants made in holy temples.
We become motivated and inspired by the potential of mankind as outlined in our scriptures. For unlike any other Christian denomination, in Christ’s New Testament Church restored, we know that each of God’s children has the potential to become like our Heavenly Parents. We take to heart this extraordinary vision of man’s potential and revel in the words from President Dallin H. Oaks, “In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” (“The Challenge to Become”, Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign November 2000)
When our lives are thus directed, fueled by our own agency and desire, we will hear Him! We will hear and feel love like none other. We will sense the next steps we should take. We will want to hear more, leading us to cleanse the inner vessel through daily repentance. We will become the answer to another person’s prayer. And, contrary to normal biological aging processes, our ability to hear Him more clearly and more frequently will improve over time. There will be no need for spiritual hearing aids!
Though we have little control over the COVID-19 virus that is wreaking havoc across the globe, we have complete control in our ability to hear Him. Let us use this unique season to fully embrace and live these great words from President Russell M. Nelson (that were shared at the beginning of this article), “As disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.” (President Russell M. Nelson Invites All to “Hear Him”, Church News April 5, 2020)