Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Without actual knowledge

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session from the October 1973 Conference.
My favorite talk from this session was Elder Hartman Rector's called "You Shall Receive the Spirit." I really liked his description of faith:
Of course, there are many definitions of faith, but one definition is “a strong belief plus action.” It is not perfect knowledge (as Alma explains in Alma 32), but real faith lets a man act as if he knows it is true when he really doesn’t. 
Therefore, faith in a real sense is power—power to act and perform without actual knowledge.
That sounds a little odd at first—like he is advocating fakery or hypocrisy. "Faith lets you act like you know what you're doing when you don't!"  But it's not that at all. It's a simple acknowledgement that none of us really know what we're doing in mortality. We are all blind, or as Isaiah put it, "All we like sheep have gone astray." Only God truly knows why things work the way they do, which laws must be followed, how to achieve the greatest happiness.

But we as mortals don't have to stumble along blindly. We can step with confidence along certain paths because God has assured us those paths lead to happiness! Thus we can make decisions and move ahead courageously, even though our knowledge is lacking. Following someone with ultimate knowledge is, for now, almost as good as having that knowledge ourselves. (It goes without saying, I think, that God does want us to eventually gain the knowledge He has. He doesn't want us just following forever. But this knowledge will ONLY come after the "non-knowledgeable following" has already commenced. The veil, along with the 'natural man' within each of us, ensures that we at least begin mortality as "sheep." No one skips that step.)

Elder Rector continues:
The Lord’s formula for receiving the Spirit, then, is to get on our knees and communicate with him. Tell him what we are going to do—make commitments with him—outline our program—and then get up off our knees and go and do precisely what we have told him we would do. In the doing, the Spirit comes.
From the record, it is obvious that most home teachers do not really enjoy home teaching. I have been a home teacher for 21 years. I don’t think I have missed a half dozen visits over the whole period. I cannot say that I love to home teach until I get to the first home, and then I do love it because I then get the spirit of a home teacher because I am acting like a home teacher—doing what a home teacher does.
Even beyond the obvious charm of a general authority talking about how he's reluctant to get to his home teaching, I just love this. It's the concept of "It shall be given you in the very moment what ye shall say…" taken even further: you will know be given in the very moment what ye shall DO—in other words, you will know what to do as you start trying to do it. And even more, you will feel like doing it as you start to do it. 

Taken together, the two concepts give a pretty good definition of faithful discipleship. Be willing do what God tells us to, even if we're not sure why. And then start doing it even if we're not sure how. Both of those things seem sort of crazy from a mortal perspective, and indeed, they only make sense when an all-knowing God is in the picture. Luckily, we know He is. And He will send his spirit to smooth the way at every turn: in the knowing what to do next, in the power to do it well, and in the changing of our natures so we begin to love the doing.

Other posts in this series:

No comments:

Post a Comment