Every Man’s God

One person believes his understanding of God can control what God is able to do or not do. Another person believes anything new that conflicts with what she thinks about God must be false. They limit what God is able to accomplish with them because they doubt God can be other than they imagine Him to be. It is puzzling to think people with such different views of God assume they will see God’s promises fulfilled:

And it shall come to pass in the last days — when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it — many people shall go and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  O house of Jacob, come, and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for you have all gone astray, everyone to his wicked ways. Therefore, O Lord, you have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east and listen to fortune-tellers like the Philistines (OC Isa. 1:6-7, emphasis added.)

It is puzzling for people to wish to be “one” when they have such diverse versions of God:

The arm of the Lord shall be revealed and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord neither his servants neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles shall be cut off from among the people; for they have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant. They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness but every man walketh in his own way and after the Image of his own God whose Image is in the likeness of the world and whose substance is that of an Idol which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon even Babylon the great which shall fall. (T&C Section 1:3, emphasis added.)

To understand that scripture requires a definition for “prophets” and “apostles”–which likely has nothing to do with an office in an organization. It requires a definition of “strayed” related to “ordinances” God claims as His. It requires knowing what it means to “hear the voice of the Lord” and some appreciation for how God links together “the voice of the Lord” with “his servants.” But most importantly, it requires the sober realization that if you “imagine” wrongly a false version of God, you are worshiping an idol of your own making.
When the rest of Nephi’s family struggled with Lehi’s teaching, Nephi took his concerns to the Lord: “I cried unto the Lord. And behold he did visit me and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father.” (NC 1 Ne. 1:9.) God “visited” Nephi by softening his heart. Because of that, Nephi was able to believe his father. Believing Lehi was the difference between life and death. Lehi took his family away before the destruction of Jerusalem. That departure was “because of [Lehi’s] faith to make [him] mighty even unto the power of deliverance” of his family. (Id., v. 5.) Just listening and obeying God showed God’s “mighty power of deliverance.”

God’s deliverance is no less “mighty” because Lehi had to flee into the wilderness. It was no less mighty because he had to leave behind all his possessions. It saved his life and the lives of his family. That mighty power came because Lehi listened to and obeyed God.

When Lehi later said his sons needed to return to Jerusalem and recover the brass plates of Laban, his older sons complained. Lehi told Nephi, “I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.” (Id., v. 10.) Nephi didn’t need anything other than that. Because his heart had been softened, he believed Lehi’s words. He accepted the instruction, and said he knew God would not ask anything be done unless God made it possible to accomplish. Nephi did not require God to tell him. He already understood that Lehi could provide a commandment from God. His heart was softened. He did not question or doubt, but believed his father. He acted on that belief. He accomplished great things. He would later join his father as a prophet in his own right. But first he accepted and obeyed God’s commandments from his prophet-father.

The Book of Mormon has some of the greatest messages God has provided to mankind. Without it Zion will not be possible. But, of course, it requires us to implement its teaching.