Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A practical God

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Sometimes the part of a Conference Session I like most is the part that surprises me. This time, it was just one sentence. Elder Mark E. Peterson gave a talk about Family History and quoted Peter discussing the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world. Then he said:
Would Jesus have preached to them if they could not hear and understand? Would he have preached faith and repentance if they were not able to believe and repent? Is not the Savior practical and realistic?
The way Elder Petersen stated it, it seemed like a rhetorical question; like he assumed everyone would answer "yes." But it didn't strike me as an obvious point at all. I have heard many words describing the Savior. Compassionate, transcendent, all-knowing, and so forth. And, if pressed, I would of course concede that the Savior must not be IMpractical or UNrealistic…but "practical and realistic" just isn't a part of His character I've often considered!

I don't know if other religions would agree with that description, either. I think a lot of people like to play up the mystical, unknowable part of God's character. Or else they want to treat Him as a sort of platitude-dispensing sage that tells people pleasant things about love and acceptance. But…practical? It seems like it might almost be damning Him with faint praise.

And yet as I considered it, it struck me as a most comforting doctrine, God's realism and practicality. It's sort of like how you always feel better in the Lord of the Rings books when Gandalf is around. Because of course Gandalf has thought of everything! And he isn't going to be taken by surprise or caught off-guard. He's planned it all out, and if everyone would just stop being stubborn and listen to him, everything would work out fine! And yes, I know God is more than just a shrewd businessman or a wise wizard. I certainly appreciate His mysteries and His miracles. I know His ways are not our ways, and of course His methods may not always seem practical or realistic TO US. But yet…it makes sense. Who would be MORE practical than a God who knows exactly what we need? He has not only made a plan for our happiness, but he is going to bring to pass that plan by the most effective methods possible!

If God is practical and realistic, that means He knows (and cares about) what works! He's competent. He doesn't waste time. He doesn't waste resources.

That might sound cold and impersonal to some people. And I don't mean to downplay God's compassionate side. As I said, I know that what might seem "a waste" to us would not be so to Him. But it's vastly calming, I think, to consider what a "practical" God means to me.

Would He "preach faith and repentance" to us if he did not think us capable of faith and repentance?
Would He send me any hard experience that wasn't calculated to give me the very best chance of improvement?
Would He ask me to follow a path that leads to anything but a successful (successful in HIS eyes, of course) outcome?

Of course not! Because he's practical! He's realistic! And having considered every possible option…and anticipated every possible contingency…THIS is the plan He settled on for me. And if I just place my will in God's capable hands—it's going to work.

Other posts in this series:

1 comment:

  1. I love this:

    "And having considered every possible option…and anticipated every possible contingency…THIS is the plan He settled on for me. And if I just place my will in God's capable hands—it's going to work."

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