I’ve been reflecting upon a conversation I had with a self-described “tax protester” who has not paid income taxes and is now facing legal issues as a result. After a couple of days of reflection I had this considered response to this dilemma:
I use a particular method in determining what issues I need Divine direction to resolve and what issues I need no direction from the Lord to resolve. If there is an answer in the scriptures, contained in the teachings of Christ, then I simply do not ask the question. Instead I assume Christ’s teachings are intended to govern my conduct and I comply. On the tax issue, for example, Christ did not resist paying taxes. (Matt. 17: 24-27.) Nor did Christ teach anything other than to pay taxes. (Matt. 22: 15-22.) Therefore, it would not occur to me to even ask the Lord about whether or not to pay taxes.
When it comes to asking the Lord about something on which His teachings are already clear, a person risks receiving permission to do what will ultimately instruct them by sad example that they ought to have followed His earlier teachings. The best example of this is when Joseph requested he be allowed to let Martin Harris take the 116 pages and was told “no.” He persisted, and despite having been told “no,” he asked again and was then told “yes.” The “yes” was not because God had changed His mind, but because Joseph simply refused to learn by anything other than sad experience to respect God’s counsel. (D&C 3; D&C 10: 1-30.)
Therefore, when there is already an instruction on point from the Lord, and we ignore it, the answer we receive may be for our benefit. We may need to learn by sad experience what we might have learned instead by precept and wisdom from the Lord.
It is this kind of experience men repeat by failing to follow God’s counsel. Then, when they might have avoided the sting which follows, they choose instead to suffer. Oftentimes they will blame the Lord for the hardships they brought upon themselves, when, if they had hearkened to the Lord’s counsel in the first place, they would never have had to suffer.
This is why it is so important to study the scriptures. If the answer is in there (and almost everything IS in there) and we do not choose to find it, but to inquire for a new revelation instead, we oftentimes doom ourselves to a sad experience. His counsel should be heeded. When we don’t heed, and ask instead for new or different guidance, we may be given permission to do what He has already told us to avoid. This is one of the great lessons from the lost 116 pages.