An observation about discussion groups:

The greatest mischief of discussion groups lies in the mistaken impression that collective effort will help the individual in their personal journey. The path to God is solitary. It is between the individual and the Lord. Groups create an artificial environment. The stage erected lets the group appear to occupy center stage moving the Lord into the wings.

It would be better to spend the same hours pondering or praying. Any person doing that would be better served than they are by devoting time to arguing, debate or the convincing of others.

When you learn a new idea and that is followed up with questions or uncertainties about how to make it fit together with current belief or understanding, pondering and praying is more useful. Groups debate. They argue over how to fit it together. How you fit it into your understanding will be different than how another does. The group may not share your background or have studied what you have. Therefore, a group discussion may not even address the difficulties you are contemplating.

In a group discussion there is more contention than harmony. Contention is dark and invites errors. It would be far better to contemplate, meditate, study scriptural passages, to look into related statements from prior patriarchs, prophets and apostles than to debate with others. New information can open the mind. Contentious debate will close it.

When the Lord appeared to Paul on the Road to Damascus, there were others with Paul. But the interview was between Paul and the Lord. The same is true of Joseph in the Grove, Nephi on the mountain, Moses on the mountain, the Brother of Jared, Enoch, Abraham, These and the many other times the Lord spoke with or appeared to His followers came in solitary interviews. (There are of course exceptions. There were two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The appearance at Bountiful involved twenty-five hundred. But these exceptions are just that – exceptions. On the Road, the two disciples had previously been acquainted with and taught by Him. They were prepared. It was the very day of His resurrection. He was looking to establish a body of witnesses. The same is true of Bountiful. As I discuss in The Second Comforter, those witnesses were carefully prepared and self-selecting.)

Another problem with discussion groups, or even valued teachers, is the tendency to take attention that belongs to the Lord and give it to a man. No man is supposed to be the focus of your adoration. That belongs to the Lord alone. Men who seek to become the focus or to “win” a debate are likely to draw attention to themselves, rather than to place the focus where it belongs.

If even one member of a discussion group is unprepared, the Lord will withhold from everyone the greater light. If you tie yourself to others, you may find it hinders, rather than helps your progress. Since no two people are similarly situated, there will be hinderances for some participants.

The scriptures are a gold standard for parsing the mysteries. They contain a great deal of undiscovered truth. Unlocking those mysteries is almost always done in study, contemplation, prayer and solitary reflection apart from the world. Discussion groups become part of the world as soon as they deteriorate into contention. Take a look at discussion boards. How often are they wholesome and free of contention? The “comments” on this blog were disabled because of the deterioration that took place here.

No one can help you find your way back to God. Ideas and doctrines will; men will not. They are a poor substitute for truth, careful study, individual prayer and meditation, pondering and parsing the scriptures and developing your mind. If someone has something to teach, let them teach. Then go your way and ponder upon it. But debating and arguing is valueless or worse.