2 Nephi 31: 3

2 Nephi 31: 3:

“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”
 
This raises an interesting side issue.  Nephi’s explanation of how God speaks to different people “according to their language” is something worth explaining. We have a great example in the visit of John the Baptist to Joseph and Oliver found in JS-H 1: 68-70 and Oliver’s account in the footnote there. The language they quote from John the Baptist is phrased differently by each of them, although both are quoting the angel. Angel’s leave an impression. Notwithstanding Joseph Fielding Smith’s teaching that memory from such things fade with time, my experience tells me quite the contrary. Such things are distinct and memorable. Often, if you need to hear a quote, the person who received it can quote word-for-word what they were told many years later; particularly when the quote is a declarative statement of what is to be or what is conferred. When, therefore, Joseph and Oliver give two different accounts of the quote, I understand this not to be a contradiction, but an example of the thing Nephi is referring to in this verse.
The communication of angels is not usually verbal in the traditional sense of verbal communication. That is, no air is being vibrated. Rather, the form the communication takes is for the angel to “speak” by delivering to the mind of the person spoken to the concept or declaration to be understood.  Then the person, receiving the concept or declaration into their mind, is obliged to  convert into words the message received. If the vocabulary of the recipient is German, they will use German to reduce the message to words. If English, they will use English. If their vocabulary is rich and complex, the words may be more exact. If their vocabulary is simple, the words may be simple.
However one comes into the presence of God or His angelic ministers, once there, the thoughts that come to the person will conform to their understanding, their vocabulary, their manner of phrasing. The underlying purpose is always the same: to make the communication plain to the understanding of the person visited. 
 
It is also true that the Lord “giveth light unto the understanding” and does so according to the heed and diligence we give to what we have already received. (Alma 12: 9, see also D&C 50: 24.) We cannot understand some things even if they are explained to us if we do not have the necessary light to permit that understanding. Light and truth attract one another.
When we approach God, we do so by degrees not merely by study. We find ourselves gaining light that quickens our understanding. What we cannot understand at first, gains clarity only after a period of living true to the things we already have. 
 
The commandments are not something we follow to please God, but something we do to understand God. Living true to what we believe He expects of us, allows us to gain an appreciation for what kind of Being He truly is. In that sense, the commandments are not so much burdens to bear, but revelations to understand. The greatest understanding, of course, does not lie in strict conformity to the letter of any law or commandment, but the insight obtained from the underlying principle you discover as you follow it. Commandments should soften or break your heart, not harden it. When a commandment hardens the heart of the follower, they have misunderstood the commandment altogether. This was the case with the accusers of Christ, who followed the underlying intent with perfection, while breaking the superficial requirements regularly.
 
None of it will become “plain” to the follower until they have done and understood what the commandments were attempting to reveal to them. When, however, you encounter a Nephi, you have someone who now sees the issues plainly. It was meant for us all to see them plainly.

“of strong faith and a firm mind”

Consider this:
“[N]either have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.  For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.”  (Moroni 7: 29-31.)
Note that angels show themselves to those “of strong faith and a firm mind.”  Also, that the visit will require them to whom such visits come to “bear testimony of [Christ]” as a result of those visitations.
From Joseph Smith:
“A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.”  (TPJS p. 137.)
Note that the “imagination” is not useful in gaining communion with God.  Fanciful, flowery and heated imaginative thoughts will detract, not contribute, to knowing Him.  The only way is to possess the same mental state as Moroni refers to – careful, sober, solemn, deep thoughts are required.  The mind must reach into heaven as well as the darkest abyss.  The opposition of things in this creation and the balance of those opposites will cause you to encounter the worst as you strive to enjoy the best. All is kept in balance throughout the process.
A person can’t imagine they have salvation.  They must “know” they possess it.  The heavens should declare it to them.  When the heavens bestow this knowledge upon a person, it is an anchor to their soul and they will never fall.  But until then, a person needn’t suppose they possess something which God has not declared by His own voice to be theirs.

True teachers will labor to help you understand how real, deliberate, attainable, and necessary this process is to engage in.  They will not ask you to follow them.  They will teach you how to follow God, and obtain from God knowledge of salvation.  False teachers will distract you. They will tell you all is right, that there is enough good being done in your life to merit God’s favor, and that it is not necessary for you to do more than belong to a privileged group.

You cannot possess the knowledge which will save you until you have learned for yourself that God lives, and that He has promised to you eternal life.

True blue, through and through

I’ve been thinking about an incident in the young life of Joseph F. Smith.  He was outside a camp gathering firewood when a group of Mormon-haters rode into camp and scattered all the men.  Joseph F. considered running for a moment, but then decided to go confront them.  He walked with his armful of firewood back into the camp, right up to an armed man who was cursing the Mormons.

The man bellowed at Joseph F.: “Are you a Mormon?”



Joseph responded: “Yes siree; dyed in the wool, true blue, through and through.”


The man was so disarmed that he grabbed Joseph F.’s hand and told him he was the “pleasantest man I ever met!” (with a few obscenities mixed in.)


I like that story.  I consider myself a “true blue, through and through Mormon.”  Despite that, I know we have problems and many flaws.  The scriptures foretell our many deficiencies.  But human weaknesses and shortcomings are no impediment to the Divine origin of Mormonism; nor its ultimate destiny.


I think it is an error to have an unreasonably high opinion of ourselves. Conversely, it is an error to conclude that all is lost because of our shortcomings.  We are full of sins and errors, slogging along making institutional and individual errors daily.  But we are also, institutionally and individually, called to be involved in God’s work to redeem His children.  He loves us all, with a love which can overcome our many failures.